Posts Tagged ‘nama’


Few people visiting Galway will fail to notice the impressive Webworks Galway building (pictured above) just of Eyre Square. The building is part of a huge development plan announced by the Irish government & Enterprise Ireland in May 2000. The plan originally encompassed the building of similar incubators in 10 towns & cities across Ireland and was targeted at digital media, electronic business, health sciences, software and telecommunications businesses & start-ups.
There would be 3 large Webworks incubators and 7 smaller ones.

The three centres in Galway, Cork and Limerick will be 40,000 square feet in size each and cost between £10m and £15m to develop.

The seven smaller operation in regional towns are expected to be 10,000 square feet.

I recently contacted the Webworks Galway to enquire about using it as a venue for CrisisCamp Ireland. I knew from prior contact that quite a few of the offices were vacant so I was hoping to use some of the larger ones and the open/public spaces to accommodate this event. My idea was that an event such as Crisiscamp might be a good fit for Webworks and might lead to more interest in the vacant offices. Their website gives the distinct impression that this is an Enterprise Ireland owned/run facility both because it is plastered in Enterprise Ireland logos and by the text used:

Enterprise Ireland Webworks Galway is a joint initiative between McNamara Construction, Enterprise Ireland and Galway City Council. Enterprise Ireland Webworks projects are designed to provide premium enterprise space for internationally traded service companies in a technologically superior building located in the heart of the city.

I was hence very surprised to get a call from an Enterprise Ireland representative telling me that they had nothing to do with the running of the building and that I should contact a local real estate agent who was managing the building. I was also told that this agency would more than likely have no interest in accommodating 1 day events. To be honest I was amazed by the dismissive attitude. Here is a prominent & expensive building, paid for with public funding, sitting mostly empty and there seemed to be no effort to monetize the asset. It was then that I recalled reading something about Webworks Cork being in a similar situation. Time to do some digging….

It soon turned out that most of the webworks buildings were built in a partnership between Enterprise Ireland and McNamara Construction (Galway Webworks) and Howard Holdings (Cork Webworks). Presume the plan was for the other 8 to be built under similar partnerships. Enterprise Ireland invested  €4.36 million in Webworks Galway & €3.82 million in Webworks Cork.  The occupancy levels are shockingly low:

Throughout its existence, the building has remained largely empty. According to its website, just 17 out if its 36 units are occupied. However, Enterprise Ireland has said the building occupancy is about 35% — suggesting a lower figure of around 13 units.

The Galway Webworks, opened in 2009, fares much worse with just seven out of its 42 units occupied.

Some follow-up research showed that Webworks Galway currently only has 2 paying tenants at the moment. One of these tenants stated that Enterprise Ireland had a 40% stakeholding in the building but pulled out 6 months or so ago when the other 60% (owned by McNamara Construction) became part of NAMA. The management of the building was contracted out to a third-party who shortly afterwards went into receivership and now all enquiries are handled by  DTZ Sherry Fitzgerald. A property firm like that would obviously have no interest in promoting or stimulating local entrepreneurship.  The listing on their website doesn’t exactly go overboard in trying to sell the property. Another stumbling block to these buildings being used to their full potential lies in the requirements for potential tenants as well as the high rents.

It is understood that the lack of smaller technology- based operations in the Webworks buildings is, in large part, due to high rents and other service charges, putting its offices out of the price range of most SMEs.

Apparently the Cork Webworks building was up for sale some time but appears to have been taken of the market. There is an interesting discussion on it on Boards.ie. I couldn’t find any information on the other proposed webworks buildings.

It is truly amazing that facilities like these are lying unused. They could be put to good use providing low-cost or free accommodation for start-up companies allowing them to bring the overheads of starting up down and hence stimulating new business. You would expect the Irish government to at least attempt to maximise the use of their assets. A start-up incubator along the lines of what is discussed here would cost very little and have substantial realistic potential.

I know more than a few people who would be willing to invest time in getting such an initiative of the ground and keeping it going. I’m one of them.

Anyone who is interested in trying to do something about this facility being wasted please put a comment on this post with your ideas and I will get back to you.

 

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People who know me personally or those who follow me on Twitter know that I have very outspoken views on politics and how this country should be run. Because my rants are more often than not squeezed into 140 characters I think it is time to flesh them out a bit and put them in some kind of structure. hence a blog-post. Now I expect this to be a long one so I will split it up in several parts to keep it digestible. Please also don’t critisize me for lack of nuances or detail. If I start including those the post will go on for 500+ pages and I will never get any real work done. What I want to get across is a growing frustration with the fact that we are going through momentous times but that a large percentage of people (particularly the ones currently in government) don’t seem to realise that we need to get it righ this time.

There are several levels on which we “the people” are in the shit at the moment. We have a global economical & financial system that is in an advanced state of collapse. We have politicians in our own country, on European level and in charge of the most powerful nations in the world who pander to the populist vote and who have abandoned principle, honor and integrity. The catholic church, still a mainstay in  much of the western world, is losing followers faster than a middle-aged man loses his hair.

On a national level we have a crumbling public infra-structure, a failing health care system, a underfunded educational system ( the majority of primary schools are owned by the Catholic church), violent crime which is beyond the Gardai’s (Irish police) control. We have a economy which is circling the drain and we are governed by a bunch of incompetents who have less understanding of macro-economics than my 10 year old.

So where does this leave us? In my opinion we are going through a metamorphosis; all mainstays & supports in our society are gone. The faith in religion is gone (pardon the pun), financial security (banks, pensions etc.) is gone. Not only are most banks in dire straits, the actual system of banking and the financial industry seems to have been built on smoke & mirrors. The government has failed at all it most basic tasks, it is unable to stabilise the economy, it cannot keep it’s citizens safe, it cannot provide a sustainable living environment for most of it’s citizens, it disrespects democratic vote (hello Lisbon treaty referendum) and it uses tax payers money to bail out their cronies while cutting back on provisions for the lower classes of society (NAMA, health care cutbacks etc.). I can see a realisation dawning where people see that they cannot depend on the nanny-state they so craved. We will have to go back to a system where we will have to do things ourselves. We need a system build on direct rule and direct action. Strip the government back to a bare minimum (public safety, defence, public services etc)  and let the private sector take care of the rest. Issues like trade & economic development should not be handled by civil servants. A civil servant operating in a free market environment is asking for trouble. Services and the provision of them should be based on supply & demand. A bloated government apparatus will only be staffed by people whose only interested is to secure their own jobs rather than serve the people who they represent.  Free market economics will prevent such waste.

Look at the current hot issues in Ireland; the global economic & financial crisis has been aggravated by the overdependence on the (now collapsing) property & construction industry. We have no indigenous industrial base to speak of as the IDA has for decades squandered money away by paying foreign owned multi-nationals to set up base here. As soon as the cost-base increases these companies flee to cheaper shores (something recent developments have clearly illustrated). The government is now in a blind panic throwing money around using expenditure as a measurement of effectiveness. Again it is “form over function”. Several of the largest banks are on the verge of collapse and what does the Irish government propose? A state owned body that will buy all the toxic debts of the banks so that said banks can put the results of their blatant mismanagement behind them and continue like nothing has happened.  The bill for this adventure will be footed by the tax-payer who is already being crippled by increased taxation and reduced spending by the government. To put it bluntly, the people who have the least fault will have to bail out the institutions that are at the root of this disaster. And what would the result off all this sacrifice be? The survival of the same mindset that has brought us here. We would be much better off to let failing banks collapse and to build a new, healthier financial system on the ruins of the current one. This might mean 5-10 years of struggle but if is greatly preferable over 25-50 years of un-imaginable amounts of debt having to be paid of by the taxpayer. That will be you, your children and quite likely your grandchildren.

But lets not blame everything on the state. We have become a society of pussies who expect to be compensated for or protected against every form of discomfort. A large swathe of society prefers to sit on their sofa, stuffing their faces with low-fat crisps watching such mindbogglingly tripe as X-factor, “UK’s got talent” or”next top model” while the global economy slides headfirst into a quagmire. They will moan and groan as they call Joe Duffy but really they are more concerned with the rental cost if a bouncy castle than the effect the current crisis has on our economic competitiveness, our GDP or the tax burden on future generations. They will take legal actions against the owner of a shop if they slip on an icy patch on the way out but they won’t shovel snow from the doorstep of their elderly neighbour. People like myself who blog & tweet slip into the assumption that everyone is as engaged and switched on as we are. WRONG!

Part 2 of this post will follow shortly…