We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Dún Laoghaire.

As the capital of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR) County, Dún Laoghaire town is best known for its historical buildings, natural amenities and beautiful coastline. The Harbour area is rapidly becoming a key location for national and international concerts and events. It is also a hive of economic activity, boasting 800 businesses from a broad range of B2C and B2B sectors including retail, food and drink, tourist, SME, start-up and corporate community spread through the town.

While Dún Laoghaire is an urban town within the greater Dublin region with over 140,000 people living within a 10-minute drive and 34pc of the population under 30 years of age, its high street struggles with many of the same challenges that towns across Ireland do. George’s Street is approximately 1.2km long and features 264 shop fronts, most of which were built in the 19th century.

To paraphrase one of the speakers on an RTE Radio feature concerning online trading earlier this year, in her opinion Dún Laoghaire town is severely impacted by online. She feels the retail mix in the town is old fashioned and says that in terms of people seeking experiences Dún Laoghaire is a particularly interesting case in point, large numbers of people visit the town for the seafront experience, but this footfall is not transferring to businesses on the main street.

To address this challenge, the County Council’s strategic objective for the town is to identify and promote the town as a new digital, creative and technology hub for the region through the Digital Dún Laoghaire initiative. In support of the Council’s objective of the digital transformation of the town this project is based in Bank of Ireland with the mission of helping small businesses in the town transition successfully to the digital economy and helping reposition the town s high street offering so that co-working becomes the second highest use of space.

The town itself has become a broader mix of residential and businesses than in past decades with a number of office developments and shops being granted permission for conversion to residential. In an exciting development a former large unoccupied shop was granted planning permission to convert to a 100-desk co-working space (GlassHouses2) which opened in early 2019. The conversion of the former Eurosaver shop premises on Lower George’s Street into a very impressive co-working space Glasshouse2, is having a positive impact on adjoining traditional businesses through increased footfall.

Businesses in the town are well supported by a number of key groups including the DLR County Councils Local Enterprise Office (LEO), the DLR Chamber of Commerce and the Digital Dún Laoghaire initiative at Bank of Ireland all providing a focus and support for the local business community.

Among the other initiatives happening are monthly morning meet-ups are organised by Digital Dún Laoghaire in Pier Connect attracting audiences of over 60 business people on a wide range of finance and growth-related topics. These meetings are very important in bringing the business community together to network and learn, the real added value is of course the expert panels that come to these events to share their expertise. An innovative networking walk called the Peer-to-Pier has been successfully run on a number of occasions by the Local Enterprise Office with many more to come (bringing over 400 of the areas business leaders together to do business).

Separately the Lexicon library, which won the 2014 Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland award categories Best Culture and Best Public Building, runs a number of business events. Events in Dún Laoghaire have catered for every sector including; social enterprise, tourism, retail, school students, young entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs over 50 and everything in between. In itself the LEO runs over 20 programs annually to support the region supporting over 3000 clients.

All-in-all, Dún Laoghaire is a thriving business hub that is very much looking to the digital economy to ensure a smooth transition to the future by ensuring that the rising economic tide lifts all boats.

Dún Laoghaire image: Wikimedia Commons

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

Published: 3 September, 2019