“The M50 is something I hear about on the radio,” says Kristian Sheridan. He works for a global business you might never imagine setting up its Irish HQ in a small town in the West. Yet, it did just that.
His company – Photonomi – is one of a dozen sharing facilities in a sparkling, purpose-built centre in Kiltimagh, the Co. Mayo town the Oxford dictionary credits with possibly having given birth to the term “culchie”.
The enterprise centre was built by one of Integrated Resource Development (IRD) Kiltimagh‘s subsidiaries*. Its voluntary director, Brian Mooney, advises allcomers to “get surrounded by good go-ahead people. Don’t listen to the odd begrudger.” His motto: “Let the begrudgers at it, but keep going.”
IRD Kiltimagh was set up in 1989 as a not-for-profit to develop the town and its hinterland. Outwards migration is a big challenge for many towns and – over 30 years – the organisation has established three enterprise centres which, they say, add “substantial value to the small local economy”.
Just over 600 people today work in companies or projects that are, or once were, in workspace provided by IRD Kiltimagh. Joe Kelly, the organisation’s CEO, put it in perspective for ‘Changing Ireland’:
“The town’s population is around a thousand, or up to four thousand people including town and hinterland. The lesson to take from that is this: If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”
THE CAIRN CENTRE
Kiltimagh’s newest enterprise centre is called the Cairn International Trade Centre. It is a high quality building comprising 34,000 square feet of office workspace laid out in 15 open plan suites. It has fibre broadband and “rent is about 10% of the cost of equivalent workspace in the main urban centres”.
“It’s an ideal location for companies looking for additional space to enable social distancing because of Covid,” says Kelly. The centre is also ideal for “companies seeking a low-cost second site outside the main urban centres”.
The centre features in a new promo video by Community Finance Ireland (CFI) – see below. It inspires viewers to think outside the box, look beyond Dublin and and consider the potential of rural Ireland’s small towns. It shows how finance for community organisations is available away from the traditional banks and naturally tells a positive story of engagement with CFI. They provided a “sympathetic ear” and the process to get loan finance was, the IRD Kiltimagh says, “straightforward” and “short”.
Of course, Kiltimagh has been turning heads since 1993 when it opened a sculpture park. You can’t miss them, as anyone driving through Kiltimagh will know. It sets the town apart.
When I was passing through one night not so long ago, I was so stunned to see a statue of a man reading a broadsheet newspaper that I stopped to photograph it, or I should say “him”; he was so lifelike.
I strolled some more. Across the street, suits were on sale in the local St. Vincent De Paul from €5, surely the best price in Ireland. Unfortunately for me, it was well past closing time.
Then I came across the local kebab shop and, being peckish with a long journey ahead, I stopped in to get a takeaway before continuing on my way.
And that’s the idea. IRDK works to develop projects and initiatives that develop the community while simultaneously enticing visitors and supporting local business.
“We always try to be different with every single thing we’ve done,” says Kelly.
A unique project on the disused railway passing through the town is to be launched shortly. (We will follow up with coverage once that happens).
There are a number of community-based organisations with “integrated rural/resource development”, shortened to IRD, in their title.
IRD Kiltimagh is one of the originals. Their approach was based initially on lessons learned from Spain. Other community-based organisations around the country also take an “integrated” approaches to local and community development. Their work shows the impact of getting the local community, local authority, employers and state agencies to work together.
* Joe Kelly and Kristian Sheridan (above) feature in CFI’s short video about the Cairne International Trade Centre. The centre was established by a subsidiary of IRD Kiltimagh called Cairn Enterprise Hub DAC.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that Kiltimagh had a direct link to the first landing on the moon? It was also home to Antoine Ó Raifteiri, one of the country’s last travelling bards and to world heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. All that and more is celebrated in the local museum.
For more information on IRD Kiltimagh’s work, phone 094 93 81494, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Finance Ireland: www.communityfinanceireland.com
IRD Kiltimagh: https://www.ird-kiltimagh.ie/about/background—history/
Cairn Trade Centre: http://www.ird-kiltimagh.ie/enterprise/cairn-intl-trade-ctr/
Kiltimagh Museum: http://www.museumsofmayo.com/railway-museum/the-railway-station.html
…TAKE 2 FROM OUR ARCHIVE:
An inspiring craft circle set up by locals in Kiltimagh to nurture interculturalism featured in our summer 2008 edition.
‘Banking On Communities’ was the lead story in our 2016 winter edition. It covered the big picture on financing community initiatives – from minor to major – including Community Finance Ireland’s role.
FINALLY, LISTEN IN!
UPDATE: Community Finance Ireland has just publicised (Fri, Sept 25th) a podcast interview they conducted with Brian Mooney. Over 17 minutes, he talks about how to attract visitors to a town with no obvious attractions to start with. They put their minds to it – with help – and reorientated the town, so much so that people came to stay from as far away as Japan! Listen in here on Soundcloud.