Post-pandemic future of Dun Laoghaire’s in focus as DigitalHQ names local TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill as honorary patron

The busy port town of Dun Laoghaire famous for its grand harbour, beautiful parks and Victorian grandeur, is like many large towns in the orbit of Dublin city often overshadowed as legions of workers take cars, trains and buses to their jobs in the city.

But with the new normal and a very different future of work heralded by the Covid-19 pandemic, Dun Laoghaire is one of many suburban communities that stands to gain socially and economically.

“Growing up, I was very much exposed to the entrepreneurship and the wonderful array of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Dun Laoghaire region”

With more residents working from home or in local hubs, the benefits to the local economy and social fabric of Dun Laoghaire could be substantial believes local Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill who has just been appointed honorary patron of Digital HQ, a co-working hub located above the Bank of Ireland branch on George’s Street.

Carroll MacNeill recently launched a new DigitalHQ Impact Report outlining the role that the hub plays in the town and surrounding region. Digital HQ clg is a unique not-for-profit digital growth hub in the heart of Dun Laoghaire that provides incubation space to nine companies in office space donated by Bank of Ireland. At least 38 professionals are now working in formerly unused office space and all membership fees go towards the digital agenda for the town.

Growing the remote working population

“Life has changed so quickly, and we are now dependent on new ways of working,” she said. “The new world of work will be very different and for many being present in the office just once or twice a week will mean having to connect with colleagues in different ways. Having a local base rather than going into town I believe is going to be more and more important.

Quote – A big focus should be on ensuring people everywhere in the area have the option of working from home. You can’t have little pockets that aren’t accessible via broadband

“And that’s not just for the convenience of employers and employees, but people need to be more connected to what’s happening around them, be it at school, with after-care, sports and more. So I think there is a real opportunity with DigitalHQ to provide a solution for businesses and their employees that allows them to be productive and remain local.”

As a business hub in its own right, Dun Laoghaire has everything. Excellent transport links, a vibrant ecosystem of restaurants and hotels, not to mention shops but also many local businesses from software companies to accountancy practices, publishers, law firms, and more.

“Dun Laoghaire has a bustling population and is very rich in amenities and so there will be a real value to people’s lives and more in their days and weeks if they remain in this area and see what is around them. There are wonderful businesses in Dun Laoghaire and so many unique shops. There are so many businesses down every street, whether its solicitors, banks, financial service providers and you can do pretty much all of your business here.”

Prior to the pandemic, much of this vibrancy could be lost on the legions of workers who headed north into the city or dispersed to the various office and industrial parks in south Dublin or along the M50.

But now, says Carroll MacNeill, it could be Dun Laoghaire’s chance to shine. “Let’s be honest, Dublin is a midsize European capital city and Dun Laoghaire is right beside it. For people to do better locally we need better broadband because there are pockets of the area where broadband is absolutely hopeless.

“A big focus should be on ensuring people everywhere in the area have the option of working from home. You can’t have little pockets that aren’t accessible via broadband.”

Carroll MacNeill sense of the importance of supporting local enterprise was gained through her experiences growing up. Her father ran a high street shop and newsagents and her brother runs a recruitment business where she worked while in college.

“Growing up, I was very much exposed to the entrepreneurship and the wonderful array of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Dun Laoghaire region. I have a personal understanding of that community because I was exposed to it from when I was young. So I’m very connected to the needs of business owners and the support they need.”

She intends to bring this know-how and understanding to her role as honorary patron of DigitalHQ.

“With this understanding and my local connections I think support of endeavours like DigitalHQ is core to how we are going to work in the future whether from home or from near home in a totally different combination.

“There’s a great opportunity for a sustainable way of working, not just from an environmental perspective but for the benefit of everybody’s life, with reduced commute times and being part of the fabric of your local community.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 18 September, 2020

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