The former Cahill May Roberts building in the heart of Limerick city is set for a new lease of life as a business incubation hub. The building at Bank Place has been out of use for more than 20 years, when the pharmaceutical company closed its distribution centre here. However, Limerick City and County Council has agreed a short term lease to Corbally businessman Ray O’Halloran, Managing Director of Speedline Engineering based in Moyross, to set up the centre, to be known as the Limerick City Build.
Using a model set up in Glasgow, where disadvantaged youths are offered training in the trades, the building will be home to around 150 youngsters, the social entrepreneur said. Two of the three floors will be a training centre, while the bottom floor will be a business incubation centre, with room for 26 different start-up firms.
The businesses will be centred around carpentry, tiling, plumbing, cabinet making and other trades, and the proviso for the entrepreneurs using the space is that they employ some of the youths on training programmes in the upper parts of the complex. “This helps guys with a space to start their own business without the pressure of them having to go for funding,” Mr O’Halloran explained. “This will be a self-supporting enterprise. It has to make money: if they don’t, then they won’t be in business.” In future, Limerick City and County Council will be inserting ‘social clauses’ into regeneration building contracts.
In many cases, this will mean that any contractor must employ local labourers by law. Mr O’Halloran says this makes it even more crucial that youngsters learn “hand skills”. “Hand skills are very important for people who might be less educated, but certainly are not less intelligent. We need to encourage people to come back into the trades, and a lot of that will be happening here: to get people ready for when work happens”.
The training centre is backed by John Heneghan, a lecturer based at the University of Limerick’s Kemmy Business School. There will also be back office facilities with support to help some of the business people who may not have the skills to administer the business, Mr O’Halloran said.
The businessman has been working with Limerick City and County Council and the City of Culture on projects to make the whole area around Bank Place thriving as the year goes on and tells me, “It will enable the businesses to grow and create jobs. This will keep Limerick in business and Business in Limerick!”