'We will find a way of trading, whatever happens with Brexit'
DESPITE the gathering storm clouds of Brexit, Kiltimagh in east Mayo is a small town with big hopes for a brighter future.
If qualities like resilience and adaptability count for anything, the people here have them in spades, according to Ronan Egan, managing director of Genfitt, one of the town’s biggest employers with a staff of over 50 and an annual turnover of €11m.
An independent wholesale distributor of farm machinery parts, hardware and other products to the agri sector, Genfitt sells mostly to the domestic market, but with 25pc of its customers in Northern Ireland and the UK, a hard Brexit could have a serious impact on operations. Yet its boss remains sanguine about the prospect.
“I’d be surprised if it’s a hard Brexit,” says Egan. “I’d like to think that common sense will prevail. Business has to be done, no matter what.
“Besides, if Theresa May doesn’t know how Brexit will play out, and the powers-that-be in the EU can’t tell us, how are we supposed to know? We can’t make plans on the basis of what might happen. We have to continue to trade and serve our customers.”
He’s fully aware of the potential impact the deal could have on the company, which imports from Europe, China, Taiwan, India and North America.
“Tariffs, import duties and additional freight costs would be a significant cost, and delays in delivery, extra paperwork and red tape would be a concern too,” he says. “However, no problem is insurmountable and we will find a way of trading, whatever the outcome, even in difficult circumstances. Brexit will not be an obstacle to that.”
Egan feels the initiatives supported by Project Ireland will help the region rise to the challenge of Brexit and beyond.
“The recently opened Tuam to Limerick road is a case in point of how improved infrastructure delivers tangible benefits,” he says. “For our staff driving from Kiltimagh to Killarney, that’s cut an hour off the travel time each way. More regular flights and increased routes to and from Knock Airport would be very helpful too. It’s a lot easier to drive 10 minutes from there after a business trip than face the trek from Dublin. And rolling out a decent broadband service will be good for business and the wider community.
“I’m excited that €1bn is being put aside for rural regeneration, because in order to attract business talent, we need to invest in Kiltimagh as a desirable place to live.”
With two hotels, a couple of supermarkets, a selection of shops, pubs, GAA club, schools, and a population that jumped from just under 1,200 to 1,500 in the last three years, things appear to be picking up, but not at the rate locals would like.
“There’s a super community spirit, but the town needs more facilities,” says Mr Egan. “Develop the infrastructure; then the people will come. The people here are resourceful. My instinct tells me that we’ll find ways to manage, whatever happens.”
For more information on Project Ireland 2040 visit the official website