Distinguished guests, as Chairman of the Judging Panel of The Cork Business Awards 2018, I would like to welcome you here this evening as we celebrate together the vital role the Cork business community play in the economic, social and cultural life of our city.
I was honoured when asked to take on this role following in the footsteps of the late Dr Chris Coughlan. Chris held the role since the founding of the awards 11 years ago, and has contributed so much, not only to the event, but to Cork itself.
In judging awards such as this, it is very difficult to select just one business from each of the categories. In truth, we all assist each other in some way, we all promote our sector and we all promote our city. In saying that, I want to acknowledge the very large number of entries received this year. The 1,000 entries received, shows the great interest you have in showcasing your particular business in the hope of being acknowledged, not only for your business, but equally for your employees and your customers.
In this the twelfth year of the awards, I feel it is important that we duly acknowledge all that is good about Cork, its future development strategy and the positive business opportunities that this presents.
I believe we have succeeded in selecting exceptional winners tonight but please remember that every person or business nominated is an actual winner, as every day, you do for Cork what so many others can’t, and that is, you promote the very best of what Cork has to offer.
My own family business has been in existence for 63 years and I have seen many changes, we have adapted in the spirit of turning the challenges presented into opportunities.
There is no doubting Cork is experiencing a certain revival of its fortunes, with a string of development projects in the pipeline. Whilst I welcome this, I still worry about its future.
Cork City is experiencing exceptionally difficult times with retailing confronted in a way that we never imagined. Our shoppers and visitors are also being challenged. The introduction of the City Centre Movement Strategy may be seen as progress and a positive move, but if it comes at the cost of losing our indigenous businesses and the very heart and soul of our city, perhaps it will be an abject failure.
A city rising is a wonderful thing and our city is rising in so many ways. New buildings in so many parts, a model to go up as opposed to going out, something I have written about for 20 years, many thousands of new jobs for our city and our towns, but we must ask ourselves what the cost will be. Will it change the USP of Cork? That Unique Selling Point is our warmth and friendly business approach, that is more like a village feel than a city feel and is more in keeping with a highly personal service than an impersonal service.
I sometimes wonder if our local authorities and business organisations really know what they are seeking to change, as Cork and especially Cork City, is one of those unique places that if you change the model too much, you may break it and it may never be fixed. Cork City Centre is the economic, social and cultural heartbeat of our city and and we have to protect it, we all know what happens when a heart stops beating.
We should not have a protectionist mentality when it comes to the development of our city. We need to strike a balance between regeneration and stagnation in order to compete with the best of Europe in our urban development
Progress for the sake of progress is not always progressive. We can’t afford the luxury of experimenting with our business community and their employees. We simply have to get it right. I say this as a critic, from a loyal pew.
These Cork Business Awards reflect the strategy of expansion of Cork on a global platform. They also reflect the person and the personal approach that business owners contribute to their businesses. That is something that is unique to Cork.
In daily business life, I see the global reach of companies and products and each is only achieved by the exceptional people that lead, manage and are part of an organisation. You are leaders in your field, and those in your sector follow you and your example. You are, as we have described in our hashtag for these awards – #bestincork18 – and that is an important statement, as we all have a responsibility in business, to lead and not just follow. We set an example for excellence and we strive to do our very best to continually improve and those of you gathered here this evening are examples of that excellence.
Our task was, as I have said, an enormous challenge and while we have over 900 businesses and people that we did not acknowledge with an award this year, each of those businesses and people are outstanding in what they do.
However, our winners this evening are exceptional in our opinion and I am delighted that our choice for each category and for each area of Cork is representative of where Cork is and where it is going. Each of you, our winners here tonight, are Local and Global Ambassadors for Cork. Your philosophy is continuous in your ability to promote and serve Cork and to grow its profile locally, nationally and internationally and for this you deserve recognition and acknowledgement.