Offaly business chief sets retail and technology targets

Ger Scully

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Ger Scully

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Offaly business chief sets retail and technology targets

New Tullamore Chamber President, Anthony Hanniffy (on right) with colleague Martin Minnock

A STRATEGY to develop Tullamore as a remote working hub in the post-Covid environment has been mooted by the newly elected President of Tullamore and District Chamber of Commerce, Anthony Hanniffy.

The ACETECH director predicted Tullamore's biggest employers within the next ten years will be some of the world's technological giants.

“I intend that the Chamber will work closely with Offaly County Council and the IDA to bring that dream to fruition,” said Mr Hanniffy following his election at the body's AGM on Tuesday night last.

The new Chamber chief said he will also prioritise the plan for the old Grand Canal Harbour site in Tullamore and identified it as an ideal location for remote workings hubs.

He stressed one of his key initiatives for the coming year is the establishment of a new retail group to assist with the relaunch of the town for the post-Covid era.

Mr Hanniffy, who grew up on a farm at Endrim near Ferbane, has been involved with the Chamber for the past number of years and succeeds outgoing President, Roger Guiney who steered the business group through the choppy waters of the Covid pandemic.

He moved to Tullamore in 2006 and three years later he joined ACETECH which has grown from a small workshop operation to a global organisations with an annual turnover in excess of €10 million and employing 50 staff in the town.

A Chartered Accountant, Mr Hanniffy is married to Sinead, who works in Tullamore Credit Union, and the couple have four children, Orla, Emer, Sarah and Cian.

Mr Hanniffy, speaking at the AGM held on zoom, said “it was a great honour to be the incoming President of such a great organisation. I have been part of the Executive for the past four years and through it there has been nothing only positive things for myself and the company that I work for.”

He paid tribute to the three past Presidents he has served under, Niall Mulligan, Anne Starling and Roger Guiney, each of whom, he said, had a major influence on him.

The new Chamber chief also thanked those members of the executive who had stepped down – Rena Lynam, Maurice Conway, Noel McCann, Karen Flanagan and Gerry Buckley and welcomed new executive members Ciaran Stewart, Supermacs; Ronan Berry, Midlands 103 and Polar Ice; Caroline Collins, Tullamore Credit Union and Barry Kilroy, General Manager of the Bridge House Hotel.

Mr Hanniffy also welcomed John Leavy on board as his Deputy President and said the Centra operator has played a key role in the Team Tullamore and Christmas Lights projects over the past number of years.

Looking to the future he said: “This town finds itself in the midst of an event that has been unbelievable in scale. I don’t want to go on too much about the negatives – we hear them everyday but rather focus on where we are at and plan for the future. There is no doubting that this has been catastrophic especially for our retail colleagues. I can only say that we’re nearing the end and we’re all looking forward to getting out and about and supporting you going forward.”

He predicted “there is no doubt that working in Ireland is going to change substantially over the next few years. I fully believe that remote working is going to become the norm. By remote working I don’t always mean working from home but working from serviced hubs with up to date modern facilities. I think that the towns that plan for this will move ahead and the towns that keep their heads in the sand will continue to fall behind. I believe that Tullamore is ideally situated to take advantage of this. By the end of my term I would like to see a strategy in place and being actioned to cater for this new norm. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if in 10 years time the biggest employers in Tullamore were some of the major tech giants that only a year ago we would have dreamed of them operating here.”

The new President revealed the Chamber has been planning a new website for Tullamore and said he hoped it would be launched in the near future. “Obviously the world has changed since we originally started planning this site so we’ll have to move on and cater for our present circumstances.”

Continued Mr Hanniffy: “It is one of my key items for the year to setup a new Retail group to assist us with the relaunch of the town after Covid. I was watching the UK news this morning and it was great to see people getting haircuts, people having a few drinks and out and about doing some shopping. We’re not too far away and whilst it will be slow & steady to start with I think that closer to the end of the year we’ll be able to fully relaunch. I would like to see a executable plan around this – we’ll need to spend some monies around this but I think that it’ll be a great investment into our town.”

“There is no doubt that the present circumstances have been challenging and some of these challenges are going to persist. The growth in on-line shopping has been fueled during this pandemic. Going forward we are going to have to challenge our beliefs and work in ways that would have been alien to us only a year or two ago. Businesses are going to have to work together to keep / attract customers to our town. It might be alien to some that if there is a product / service that they cannot offer that they refer the customer onto a competitor but that’s what we’ll all have to do to keep consumers in our town rather than driving them to other towns or to online. It is my intention that the Chamber will act as a facilitator of greater business co-operation and hopefully with the seeds we sow this will become a part of everyday business life and I’m sure our town will thrive on it.”

Mr Hanniffy stressed businesses will also have to be adaptive – “in fairness most have with the example of development of click and collect services, but innovation will need to be considered on an annual basis rather than during a time of crisis. I mention innovation as it is something that we in ACETECH embrace – over two thirds of our workforce in Tullamore are engaged in R&D activities. We feel that this approach is going to set us up as a business for many more years to come.”

The new Chamber President also issued a call on the young business people of Tullamore and its surrounds to join the body.

“I think that this will serve two purposes – for the Chamber to give us a lead and bring new ideas and energy to the table. And also for the individuals as a networking and social aspect. Going forward with remote working becoming more common this will be vital to keep these young people engaged.”

Turning to the charity sector in Tullamore, Mr Hanniffy congratulated Chamber colleague James O’Connor on the great work he has done with ACT.” I would urge all businesses that if they can spare a few bob if they could show some support to our amazing charities,” he added.

Concluding Mr Hanniffy promised his role is “not to be a dictator but to bring everyone together to generate ideas”.

“ I fully believe that the only thing that is going to hold us back is a lack of ambition and vision. We shouldn’t be afraid of the size of tasks and projects. I’m looking forward to working with you all and I’m sure with the great group that we’ve drawn together there are many successes ahead for our wonderful town.”