Crowds turn out in their hundreds for ‘Business Expo’ spectacle

In the end, the message could not have been more emphatically delivered.

In the end, the message could not have been more emphatically delivered.

Right from early morning, large crowds could be seen walking through the doors of Longford Town Centre as the county played host to its first ever ‘Business Expo’ over the weekend.

Dubbed a ‘leap in the dark’ by even its most ardent of supporters, over 100 firms - varying in size - took part in the two-day showcase, all in search of securing new contacts, new business and new optimism.

As it turned out, those aspirations were greeted with unbridled enthusiasm as some of the industry’s most pre-eminent entrepreneurs spoke glowingly of Longford’s wide-ranging business potential.

Towards the very top of that list was software businessman Brendan Farrell. The father of two, who heads up renowned US corporate actions giant XSP, was keen to focus on what the county can offer as a business location.

Describing his own experiences as that of a ‘Longford Dreamer’, Mr Farrell said now was not the time to revisit past mistakes.

“In 1989 when I decided to resign from my banking job, I had two dreams. One was to set up my own company and the other, which was the biggest deal I closed, was to marry my wife Christine.”

Although lengthy, Mr Farrell’s address evidently struck a chord with many, summed up by the sustained level of applause which rung out just moments later.

Another of the event’s main speakers, Kingsley Aikins from Networking Matters, chose to underline the importance of entrepreneurial collectivity.

“The more we move from ‘me’ to ‘we’ and to collaboration, the more successful we will be. I think we are in a pre-boom period so now is the time to get ready when things (economy) improve,” he said, before revealing his distaste for continuing negative publicity.

In a striking correlation to Mr Kingsley’s address, Alan Gallagher and then Jenny Ryan from independent enterprise body, Connect Ireland renewed that appeal.

Both representatives told of the organisation’s desire to set up a “connector network” whereby individuals sign up to introduce expansion-focused companies, which may be interested in investing and locating in Ireland.

“You don’t have to be the CEO of a company, you just have to have some kind of connection,” said Ms Ryan. “Every person that introduces a company which results in jobs, for every job the connector will receive €1,500,” pausing to reveal that just last week a Co Carlow housewife had won herself €45,000 by helping to create 30 engineering positions.

The seminar, featuring a novel ‘speed networking’ opportununity for participating businesses, finished with an upbeat appraisal from Ballinalee native, Anne Heraty.

The CPL Resources founder, highlighted the importance of constant business re-evaluation.

“In the jungle it might be survival of the fittest, but in reality and in the business world it’s all about survival of the most adaptable.

“I believe that the businesses which will surivive are those which are constantly assessing how they do things and where they can add value to their customers,” she said.

But perhaps the occasion’s most fitting illustration belonged to Chamber of Commerce President Seamus Butler.

His speech was likened to a sketch out of box office blockbuster ‘Braveheart’ by Longford County Enterprise CEO Michael Nevin.

“Longford’s not just shovel ready, it’s shovel finished,” said a clearly animated Mr Butler. “The businesses here know what we are talking about. We are talking about Longford which we are all passionate about.”

The challenge now, almost certainly, will shift to how best that very passion can be best channelled over the weeks and months ahead.