14 February 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Co Monaghan’s industrial landscape, reeling from the blow of the Bose factory closure, was badly in need of some elevation of the spirits – and it certainly received it with the news confirmed last Friday that the progressive Monaghan-based manufacturing firm of Combilift was investing €40 million in a new factory development.

The expansion of the company’s operations will go some way to healing the still open wound in North Monaghan’s industrial skin caused by the decline in furniture production and the closure of a number of significant sources of employment in recent years.

The construction sector will receive a fillip from the creation of the new Combilift site near the Monaghan bypass and the additional employment the development will generate when it comes into operation – perhaps as many as 200 new posts over the next five years – will lessen the blight of joblessness in our county and have a positive ripple effect on many aspects of our local economy.

But perhaps the most potent effect of the Combilift announcement is its reaffirmation of the calibre of our county’s innate entrepreneurial faculty.

Co Monaghan has long prided itself on its go-it-alone spirit, the germination and cultivation of novel business ideas that have produced many hives of small and medium sized enterprises as well as some conspicuous market leaders on the national and international stages. Indeed, we have largely had to rely on our own innovation and inspiration to build and sustain our manufacturing superstructure as our peripheral location and perceived deficits in transport and communications infrastructure were cited as justification for inward investment opportunities being directed elsewhere. We came to believe, with some justification, that we were being, in a phrase once coined by the current Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Co Council Pádraig McNally, “punished for our productivity” by those State and Departmental agencies with a role in determining the location for significant industrial development.

The recent years of economic decrepitude did not erode our entrepreneurial flair, but it perhaps forced it into a state of comparative dormancy. People with novel business ideas were, because of the prevailing climate, more circumspect about nurturing them – and even if they themselves were prepared to face into the gale of economic adversity and take a risk, the seed capital needed to realise their idea was not forthcoming from the financial institutions.

The Combilift announcement has amplified its own success story as a company that since its establishment by Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett in 1998 ascended to become one of the country’s most significant exporters. That success has been founded on a concept that at first glance might seem no more than a clever engineering innovation: a form of forklift transportation that enables unwieldy, bulky materials to be manoeuvred within confined spaces. But the company’s vision extracted the maximum from this core idea, elaborating the product in a manner that secured it market potency across a range of industries in 75 countries across the world.

It’s a great Co Monaghan success story – and its latest chapter should serve as a trumpet blast to wake our slumbering entrepreneurial instinct out of hibernation. Others with start-up concepts should take inspiration from it – and those who can help them should be similarly emboldened to be forthcoming with the necessary assistance.

It would be overly churlish to remark cynically on the manner in which Government heads and Ministers and Deputies cleave in close association to the announcement of industrial good news such as the Combilift expansion, and it should be acknowledged that the Dept of Enterprise and Jobs is supporting the company’s new factory investment.

It is reasonably safe to assume that the Government has got the message inherent in this good news story – that employment growth and all the economic enhancement that comes with it is best and most reliably achieved in regional locations by the support of indigenous companies with a devoted commitment to the native soil out of which they have flowered.

It is to be hoped that this realisation becomes embedded in national job creation policy, and bears with governance on the system of supports that are made available to the nascent Co Monaghan companies also willing, even if only in an initially small way, to bring jobs and prosperity to their local place. Such principles should certainly be employed by Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton to deliver assistance to the Bose workers in Carrickmacross in a manner that allows them to continue to contribute meaningfully to the local economy they so substantially sustained for so long.

And it is also to be hoped that some belated force of persuasion will be brought to bear on the financial institutions complicit in the economic collapse to loosen the strings of their still copious purses. The banks must now begin to make some genuine recompense to the public by more readily and flexibly freeing up the loan capital that is vital to foster the fresh new wave of Co Monaghan entrepreneurship that one senses is waiting impatiently to be born.


Carpe Diem – seize the day – is one of the few Latin phrases that still enjoy common currency.

The initial meaning it possessed in its ancient, formative tongue had more to do with encouragement to enjoy the immediacy of life’s pleasures without thought to the morrow. Nowadays, probably due to its memorable citation in the film Good Will Hunting, the motto encourages the quality of exploiting the moment of maximum opportunity when it presents.

The latter principle, enacted in the continuing Combilift success story, galvanised also the forces that brought into being the impressive Monaghan Education Complex that on Friday received its official ceremonial opening from Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The development of this enormously important facility was an object lesson in a moment of opportunity, in less than propitious times for significant capital investment, being seized and maximised by a combination of inspiration, innovation, unwavering co-operation by political, educational and community interests and, perhaps most decisively, the sheer force of will and determination of the current Chief Executive of the Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board Mr Martin O’Brien.

Its educational contributions and the economic spin-offs generated for its hinterland are already conspicuous and in time will become considerable.

But as a driver of Monaghan enterprise, it is the Monaghan Institute element of the campus that can play a potentially defining role in the shape and emphasis of the employment we create for ourselves, and for the generations that will emerge from the campus’s educational facilities, into future decades.

Combilift has itself demonstrated one productive partnership with the Institute – the potential exists for many more.

The new Monaghan Local Enterprise Office, Monaghan Co Council with its new brief for the fostering of economic development, and the Monaghan Institute constitute a powerful triumvirate that could, through the evolution of a formal co-ordinated strategy, be an important driving force in this county’s economic regeneration.

Speaking at the 2011 graduation ceremony of what was then the Monaghan Institute of Further Education and Training, on the day that the foundation stone for the successor building was laid and at a time when economic gloom was the prevailing feature of general commentary, Mr O’Brien told the assembled students: “It would be important for people in the coming months to take an intensive look at Monaghan and form an image in their minds of where it is now because when they look back in ten years’ time it will be totally changed. A lot of new industries will be attracted in and the new campus development will be an impetus for this type of development.”

Last Friday’s official opening, coinciding with the Combilift announcement, lent the substance of prescience to what at the time might have seemed wistful thinking by the educational administrator.

With the support tools now fully in place and the county’s entrepreneurial confidence renewed, it is surely time for the relevant stakeholders to act to bring Mr O’Brien’s forecast to its full fulfilment – time to seize the day! c

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