It was like the good old days yesterday when the Tanaiste and her entourage came to Galway to make an announcement. It was your typical IDA announcement — The faithful were gathered, the usual suits turned up, the details would have been leaked, the photos were taken, the visiting dignitary and the flying-visit US-based head honcho would make small talk. It could have been 1995 all over, when these things were ten-a-penny.
But this time it was very different. Job announcements are now as scarce as hens’ teeth and the job numbers which would have been once in the 500s or the 600s are now more modest. Yesterday, 45 and 91 were the magic numbers. The former the number of jobs, the latter the cost of providing them.
And it is fantastic news, a real vote of confidence for a company which has been a stern performer in Galway’s economy. A company that puts bread on the tables of 3,000 local families. It was a good news story in a summer of good news stories for Galway — a city which is basking in the glory of the VOR stopover success.
However, those balmy evenings dockside are fading from the memories now and the harsh reality for Galway businesses is very different.
Just a few hours after Tanaiste Coughlan left the city, we heard the news that Tom Hogan Motors had gone into voluntary liquidation, with the possible loss of 70 jobs. Like Boston in its field, Tom Hogan’s has been one of the stalwarts in the local motor industry. As original dealers for the ever popular Toyotas, and later for BMW and Lexus, thousands of local people had dealt with them.
So a net gain of 45 jobs was dwarfed by the loss of 70. And that I’m afraid is the picture. This week alone, more than half a dozen local businesses have gone to the wall and shut their doors — and dozens of people have been thrown out of their jobs and face an uncertain future.
These numbers do not make the headlines as do new job announcements. There is no Ministerial entourage. No early morning press conference. No token chief executive flying in from the states. In the main, these jobs are gone in retail, marketing, in hospitality and in the motor trade as these front line businesses bear the brunt of the recession. Just last night again, I heard of at least two people who took their lives having lost their jobs in the past while, illustrating the needless human toll.
There is light on the horizon for the economy, but that may be next year. In the interim, we need to do all we can to support local business and make sure that we don’t lose the fine establishments and facilities built up during the good times. I have mentioned before the notion of shopping local. But this week, I am outlining a way in which we can all help out.
We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country so we can all do our bit this summer for local business by asking friends and relations to spend their holidays in the region. Everyone who comes here to spend a few days will spend a few bob and it will all go into preserving the way of life we all enjoy here.
So if you are planning reunions, get-togethers and family events this year, try to hold them in Galway. Encourage long lost friends to sample our hospitality. Visitors to these parts will not be disappointed by that we have on offer. Using our natural resources in this way may be key to making sure we get over the worst of this downturn. Now get on the blower...