Niall Harrington, well-known architect with Fewer Harrington and property developer with WhiteBox Developments, was elected President of Waterford Chamber at the 236th AGM, which took place today (Monday, September 25th) in the Granville Hotel.
Mr Harrington has been involved with Waterford Chamber for a number of years, chairing the Economic Development Group and being an active voice on lobbying agendas such as housing, planning and urban development.
Addressing Waterford Chamber members, Mr Harrington said: “It is a great honour for me to be nominated by the board and endorsed by the members to serve as Chamber President.
“I believe it’s a great time for Waterford, we have a lot done but a lot more to do. With the North Quays, the transport interchange and the Greenway bringing a focus to our city centre, we should start seeing these facilities enhance and add to the city’s attractiveness.
“Our university status will be transformational in growing our student sector, our educational offering and our attractiveness to FDI. We are meeting our housing targets and this is reflected in our population growth, which is at a higher rate than all of the other regional cities. Our next focus should be the opening up of our airport for commercial flights and aviation investment. We need to understand the potential and the value of the opportunities around our Port, as the country changes to off-shore wind power. We need to campaign for the upgrade of the N24 to a motorway and we also need to get in place an hourly, direct train service to Dublin.
“Whilst some may see these as aspirational or challenging, I see these as essential tools for the South East, and the Government’s way of ‘levelling up’ our region to match Cork, Limerick and Galway. This is the minimum ask, if we are to deliver on the roadmap our Government has set out for the South East Region in the National Development Plan 2040.”
Reporting on Chamber activity for the past year, Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley began by saying “Waterford is in a good place right now and it is getting noticed at long last. In fact, we recently held a Dublin Diaspora Dinner in Lansdowne Football Club and the air of positivity was palpable. It was clear from the reaction of our guests, who are influential business leaders, that there is a belief in Waterford as a real alternative to Dublin. Waterford is certainly on the move and very much taking its role as the capital of the region and driver of economic growth very seriously.
In terms of economic development, Mr Hurley said: “Waterford is the fastest growing Irish city-region and is the largest city-region catchment outside of Dublin with a current population of 634,000 within a 60 minute drive. This population is expected to rise to just under 800,000 by 2040. Waterford city took 2nd place of European Cities, and ranked in the top 10 for economic potential, while the South East of Ireland topped the small regions of the Future 2022/2023 for FDI strategy in the respective population category.
“According to a report commissioned by Waterford Chamber, Waterford City & County Council and SETU, which was developed by RIKON earlier this year, the €37 billion economy of the Waterford City Region has the potential to add over 1,000 new jobs every year. In order to accommodate growth, the city has been making significant investments in its infrastructure and economy. Cranes are dotting the skyline at the North Quays, we now have two functioning Cath Lab and 24/7 Cardiac Care is surely imminent, and Waterford is at last a University City.
“There is no denying the impact SETU will have on Ireland’s oldest city but challenge remains in maximising the opportunity to create a vibrant city centre as the university’s student figures grow exponentially in the coming years.
“We will continue our lobbying efforts to ensure SETU receives equitable funding and become a university of substance and international standing. Its prominent position in our Pre-Budget submission, compiled by leading economist Jim Power, on our behalf, pays testament to that. It will remain a key priority for us, along with Waterford Airport, the housing crisis, and other critical matters that are outlined in the report.”
He went on to speak about the many highlights during the year, saying “Working alongside key stakeholders is to the forefront of Waterford Chamber’s agenda and our collaboration with Waterford City & County Council was recognised as we received the Local Authority Collaboration Award at the Chambers Ireland Awards for our work on the Waterford – A City of Opportunity reports with EY and RIKON.
“This year, we also joined with Autism Friendly Waterford to support their need to make Waterford Ireland’s first autism friendly city. We are encouraging all businesses to appoint a champion to train in adapting the workplace to autism friendly, while also looking at employment opportunities for people with autism in our community.
“As a team, we are passionate about what we do and love nothing more than to interact with our members and make Waterford a better place to work and do business.”
Thanking outgoing President Paul Nolan, Mr Hurley said: “Paul’s belief in Waterford Chamber is unwavering, his belief in a better Waterford is unrivalled and his larger than life personality and humour is enjoyed by all. Earlier this year, Paul travelled to Washington as part of a USA Select delegation with US Ambassador to Ireland, Claire Cronin, to showcase Waterford to the US markets. Paul has also been a driving force behind the expansion of our Dublin Diaspora and while his term as President comes to an end, we know he has an integral role to play in Waterford Chamber and for Waterford as a whole, in terms of growing the diaspora network and promoting the city he loves so much to a global audience. He will no doubt attack this with his usual enthusiasm and we look forward to seeing the outcomes in the months and years ahead.
Meanwhile, the new President welcomed Kevin Doolin, Walton Institute as Deputy President; Éadaoin Carrick, Cantec as Vice President, and the new board elected for the coming two years is as follows: Aidan McAvinue, Aidan McAvinue & Co; Andrew Briggs, AIB; Andrew Byrne, Deloitte; Fergal Hartley, Hartley People; Georgina Carpendale, Fitzgerald Power; Marian Walsh, Carron + Walsh (Secretary); Niall Griffin, Metalman Engineering; Oliver Murphy, Oliver Murphy Insurance Brokers; Paul Nolan, Dawn Meats Group (Ex-Officio); Regina Mangan, Liberty Blue Estate Agents; Richard Hayes, South East Technological University; Ronan Brazil, O’Sullivan Scanlon Brazil (Treasurer) and Ronan Mulligan, Mulligan's Pharmacy.