The opening of a Digital Hub in Carrick-on-Suir and the post-pandemic future of work all point to the potential economic revival of the rural town.

Vision without an action plan is just a dream. However, for the CEO of Stable Lane Digital Hub in Carrick-on-Suir Aisling O’Connor, the dreams of reviving the south Tipperary is one grounded in reality and opportunity.

With an estimated 80pc of office workers now working at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are realising the sheer amount of time and effort that is lost to the daily commute. In the post-pandemic future of work, professionals will want the best of both worlds, the opportunity to work closer to home but still retain a social link with the head office. A hybrid future of work, if you will.

“We know that many people are working at home because of the pandemic, but many will also want to get out of their home environment”

This heralds an opportunity for rural towns to harness high-speed broadband links and vacant space to enable people to work locally, but crucially remain and spend locally as well as contribute to the social fabric of the town.

Build it and they will come

Office space at Stable Lane in Carrk-on-Suir.

“It’s amazing the variety of co-workers we already have from people working with major pharmaceutical companies to graphic designers and even a broadcaster,” says O’Connor.

“The Covid-19 situation has definitely been a draw for co-workers.”

Stable Lane opened its doors in September as an E-hub space that will support clients in a co-working environment. Located on the top floor of the town’s municipal offices, the hub is one of 13 projects that form part of the strategic vision for Carrick-on-Suir 2030. ‘Carrick-on-Suir Strategic Vision 2030’ is a comprehensive strategic plan that will develop and rejuvenate the town of Carrick-on-Suir through business and tourism.

Ideal for companies wishing to retain their talent and engage with new talent that do not wish to commute, as well as entrepreneurs, SMEs and remote workers, Stable Lane clients will be provided with a flexible and cost-effective workspace with high speed broadband connectivity, along with access to conference/meeting facility in a collaborative work environment. The hub will also provide mentoring and business support for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small companies working in the digital sector from South Tipperary and its catchment area, North Waterford, and South Kilkenny.

Recently appointed CEO of Stable Lane Digital Hub, Aisling O’Connor, has extensive knowledge of Enterprise Centre and the co-working ‘space’.  As manager of Dungarvan Enterprise Centre for the last 3.5 years, Aisling attracted a variety of businesses, including high potential start-ups and SMEs, across a broad range of sectors. By 2018 Aisling had brought the centre’s office space to capacity. Aware of the increasing demand for flexible workspace outside the major cities, Aisling also led the project on transforming Dungarvan Enterprise Centre into a thriving co-working hub.

Work and thrive

The newly refurbished back entrance to the Town Hall in Carrick-on-Suir.

Speaking with ThinkBusiness, O’Connor said that the hub was made possible through fundraising and the support of the Municipal District Office.

Currently, the centre can only host 15 people but phase two of the plan will eventually see it capable of hosting more than 60 people.

“Crucially, it is a safe place to go, and especially for workers who wish to get out of the home during this era.”

O’Connor says that like all towns the effects of the Covid-19 crisis are being felt particularly across the business community. “Quite a few businesses have moved their businesses online. A good example of a local business that is trading well online is Meaney’s Shoes, where people would have travelled far and wide to buy their goods. They moved their business online and it has been doing well during Covid.

“I would describe the business community of Carrick-on-Suir as tightknit. They really work well together. With that in mind, with a facility like the hub bringing white-collar professionals back into the town it will play a key role in the economic revival of the community. In many ways the hub is a template or a blank canvas for that.”

Stable Lane is just one of more than a dozen strategic projects, including heritage and tourism, for Carrick-on-Suir that will revitalise it as an attractive place to shop, work and visit.

The second phase of the plan is to secure an additional building in the centre of Carrick-on-Suir to attract not only entrepreneurs but also employees of large businesses in the catchment area. Existing clients include employees of global tech companies.

The second phase will include 50 to 60 workplaces, meeting rooms, training rooms and three-to-four separate offices as well as canteen facilities. The space will also serve to support local education and training programmes. For example, O’Connor suggests that the space would function as an enterprise centre with kitchen facilities to support the emergence and growth of local food businesses. She also has plans to enable future generations of local people to work with large international companies through virtual work placements and more.

“We know that many people are working at home because of the pandemic, but many will also want to get out of their home environment,” O’Connor said. “And we have worked hard to make sure that not only will it fit that need to get to an office environment, but be able to do so safely and in a socially distanced way.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 27 October, 2020

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