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Mayo - A World Class Place To Do Business

Celebrating the 7th year of Mayo Day, in partnership with Western People and The Irish Times, we were delighted to host 'Mayo - A World Class Place To Do Business' virtually on Thursday, April 29th 2021. You can re-watch the entire event below

Thursday, April 29th at 6.30pm

To celebrate the 7th year of Mayo Day, Mayo County Council, in partnership with Western People and The Irish Times is delighted to invite you to a very special virtual evening. We’ll be discussing the strong fundamentals of Mayo’s economy, looking at local resilience and how to move forward with confidence and conviction.

Irish Times Business Editor Ciaran Hancock will lead a discussion on how established businesses have worked through the challenges of Covid 19 and the outlook of leading business leaders in Mayo. His guests are:

  • Joe Queenan, Foxford Woollen Mills
  • Maureen Walsh, DeCare Dental & IBEC
  • Michael O’Donnell, Fort Wayne Editor Michael McAleer will host a discussion on how a new generation of entrepreneurs and smaller businesses are building a county known for its innovation, creativity and willingness to take on the world. Joining him are:

  • Tracy Sweeney, NOR Designs & visual artist
  • Brendan Maloney, Skillko
  • John Mullen, Version 1

Meet Our Panelists

In discussion with Irish Times Business Editor Ciarán Hancock and Editor Michael McAleer

  • Joe Quennan - Foxford Woollen Mills

    Joe Queenan was born in Lahardane, Ballina Co Mayo where he still lives. He attended secondary school at Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina, Co Mayo and went on to study accountancy in Sligo.

    Joe then moved to London where he completed his studies and worked for an accountancy practice in Regent Street before returning home, for family reasons, at the end of 1986.

    Joe joined the accountancy firm Bourke, Gilroy, Gannon in Ballina and in August 1987, Rory Quinn, a partner in that firm happened to be appointed as receiver of Foxford Woollen Mills.

    Foxford Woollen Mills is located in a small town of the same name in the West of Ireland. They have been weaving blankets and throws since 1892 when the Mill was originally established by a Catholic nun to provide a sustainable income for locals. The Mill fell into receivership in 1987, a victim of recession and the lure of low-cost manufacturing in overseas markets.

    Joe’s focus changed from doing the accounts of sole traders and small companies to spending all his time in Foxford Woollen Mills working on the receivership process. He was smitten by the history and heritage of the business. With the expertise of Wexford Textiles owner, Tom O’Mahony Joe secured investment to acquire the Mill himself and has been Managing Director of the business ever since. The Mill was restructured from a vertical operation to a weaving and finishing one and today, as well as the original Mill where blankets, throws and scarves are still crafted, Foxford hosts a luxury and contemporary homewares store, a café and visitor centre at Foxford, a store in Westport Co Mayo, and a concessions in Arnotts, Dublin and has embraced the online market. Foxford products are exported to the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia and are distributed to selected retail outlets within Ireland.

    The company now employs 70 people and spans the manufacturing, retail, food and tourism sector.

    Joe is married to Claire and they have three children.

  • Maureen Walsh - DeCare Dental & IBEC

    Originally from the US, Maureen moved to Ireland in 1999 to help establish DeCare Operations Ireland Limited, a claims and shared services centre based in Claremorris, Co. Mayo. Maureen has led DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland from start-up stages to become Ireland’s only specialist dental and vision benefits insurer and oral health company.

    DeCare is proud to serve individuals and companies throughout Ireland, ranging in size from 10 to 5000 staff. Maureen has a Bachelor of Science (Marketing) from Boston College Carroll School of Management, a Masters of Business Administration from the National University of Ireland, Galway and has a Certified Insurance Practitioner qualification from the insurance institute of Ireland.

    Maureen is a Board member of the Governing Body of GMIT, is a member of the IBEC National Council and recently served two terms as Regional President of IBEC West, she has held the role of Chairperson of Mayo Cancer Association and is member of various associations such as: 30% Club supporter, Bizmentors Advisory Board, the MBAA Association, the American Chamber of Commerce, Claremorris Chamber of Commerce and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

  • Michael O’Donnell - Fort Wayne

    Biography:   Michael O’Donnell    MD Fort Wayne Metals Ireland

    Michael O’Donnell is the managing director of Fort Wayne Metals Ireland, a subsidiary of a US multinational medical device company. The company manufactures precision medical wire and components for cardiovascular and neurostimulation medical devices.

    Born in Killala, Michael studied engineering in NUIG, before joining De Beers Industrial Diamond Division in Shannon in 1988. He completed an MBA in NUIG in 1994 and afterwards moved back home to Ballina, as Engineering Manager for an automotive components company GenCorp- Henniges Elastomers. The workforce there was excellent. They introduced lean manufacturing and 6 Sigma, but regretfully in 2001 Michael had to shut down that operation with the loss of over 220 jobs.

    He was determined to attract a replacement industry into the area and so developed a website and started to lobby far and near.  On this journey Michael fortunately met the CEO of Fort Wayne Metals, from Indiana; Scott Glaze, who was seeking to put down roots in Europe to supply its growing customer base here in Ireland.

    Fort Wayne Metals currently employs 115 employees. In 2019 it built a new 48,000sq ft facility to process nitinol wires and components, with the announcement of 80 additional jobs. Nitinol, a very special metal alloy that is used to make stents, because of its unique super elastic properties.

    Earlier this year the Company joined forces with I-Form, of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to undertake research into the 3D printing of nitinol for medical devices and industrial actuator applications.

    For Michael and his Company, operating out of Castlebar, is a dream come true. Michael has worked on the west side of the Shannon for next nigh the last 40 years. He says “the Quality of Life here in the West of Ireland is wonderful, you couldn’t get it anywhere else in the world”.

    “This Covid lockdown has taught us to really value this Quality of Life. Our government must grasp this opportunity to deliver state of the art broadband right through the regions. The National Spatial Strategy promised in 2002 by the government of the day, never materialised. We cannot repeat these mistakes. We must invest wisely for Quality of Life and for the future of the Regions” said O’Donnell

  • Tracy Sweeney - NOR Designs & visual artist

    “As long as you’re always thinking on a global level a creative business can thrive from anywhere” says international visual artist Tracy Sweeney. Married to world-renowned goldsmith and jewellery designer Nigel O’Reilly, the pair form the nucleus of a growing artistic and craft set that is developing in Mayo. Sweeney is equally passionate that the region forms the perfect backdrop for home-grown artwork with a globally appreciative audience. “My sense of being a Mayo person is hugely important; the instinct for survival in a place that for many in Europe was the edge of the known world”.

    When Sweeney is not in the studio creating commissions for museums and private global clients, she works as Creative Director at Nigel O’Reilly. Each role compliments the other; “My background in visual arts, photography, visual discourse and curating has had a huge influence on our company direction coupled with Nigel’s skill in engineering and design. An inspired education spurs your creative output and company trajectory in ways you never thought possible. Our market is very niche and we nurture it with strategic relationships in areas of luxury fashion, high-jewellery, design and media representation”. Developing these relationships has been key to Sweeney and O’Reilly’s success, having recently been featured in The New York Times, FORBES, and The Financial Times, O'Reilly's works have been worn by celebrities such as Julianne Moore and Saoirse Ronan. Their works have been chosen by Sotheby’s of New York for auction to great success, alongside a list of multiple awards in both fine art and design fields.

    To Sweeney “There is no such thing as mediocrity in the world of high-jewellery or art, we may be based in Mayo, but by creating works with precision, superior raw materials and produced to the highest level of craftsmanship, clients worldwide are assured by a solid reputation and belief at the core of what you create”.

  • Brendan Maloney - Skillko

    From Westport Originally, Graduated with a Bsc Hons Degree in Occupational Health & Safety from IT Sligo in 2009. Worked for a contractor in ESB until 2011 in Health & Safety. Moved to the UK early 2011 & worked with the largest Utility contractor until 2016.

    I setup my first business in 2015, Westbel Limited, building Utility networks across the UK & employed up to 250 people. Successfully exited Westbel business in 2018.

    Founded Skillko in Sept 2018 after 2 years of research (2016 - 2018), and Co Founded with Dermot O'Connor as the COO.

    We are a self funded SaaS business. We are growing organically & proud that 45% of our sales come from customer referrals.

    Currently hire 12 staff, based in Westport. Dublin & Portugal. Clients include PJ Hegartys, Roadbridge, National Broadband Ireland in Ireland & Keltbray, Toureen, Gallaghers, Farrans in the UK.

    Accolades to date:

    • National Enterprise Award 2019
    • IBYE Mayo Entrepreneur 2019
    • IBYE Regional Winner 2019
    • IBYE Overall Runner Up in Best Start up 2019
    • Mayo Business Awards 2018 & 2019

    I moved back to Westport in 2018 with my wife whom is also from Westport & we now have 2 little boys (Under 3!!!)

  • John Mullen - Version 1

    Crossmolina native John Mullen co-founded IT services company Version 1 in 1996 after a six-year stint at the ESB. Since then John has helped drive the company's growth as Technical Director, Business Development Director and, most recently, as Innovation Director and now Chair. Version 1 has 1,400 employees with operations in Ireland, the UK and India and annual revenues in excess of €140m. John is actively involved in mentoring and investing in start-ups, particularly in the West of Ireland. As part of the Halo Business Angels network (HBAN) he established West by Northwest (WxNW) an investment group, open to all, which brings together those interested in helping and investing in business start-ups in the West with entrepreneurs in the region. John has a BA in Computer Science from Trinity College Dublin.

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