Westport's Harry Hughes, of Portwest, was named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year for 2017 at the 20th annual awards ceremony held in Dublin last week.
More than 1,500 business leaders from across the island of Ireland were in attendance at the awards gala, alongside guest of honour, Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, to celebrate the achievements of the 24 finalists. The 2017 finalists collectively employ more than 5,200 people and last year generated revenues of almost half a billion euro.
Founded in Westport in 1904, Portwest is now a global safety supplier that designs, manufactures, and distributes a full range of specialist workwear. The company employs more than 2,000 people worldwide with sales in 110 countries.
The Co Mayo-based company that Harry Hughes runs with his brothers Cathal and Owen has driven revenues from nearly €200,000 in 1979 to over €140 million in 2016.
Harry Hughes will now go on to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards in Monte Carlo in June 2018, where he will compete with more than 60 leading entrepreneurs from across the globe.
Fellow Westport native, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, congratulated Harry Hughes on winning the highly prestigious award, saying: "Portwest is a great example of what Irish companies can achieve from a rural base.
The company has its headquarters in Westport and designs and manufactures workwear and leisurewear. Its products are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide.
“The story of Portwest and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award given to Harry last night is a great example for entrepreneurs in Mayo and throughout rural Ireland. The company employs more than 2,000 people across the globe and is a major employer in Westport. I want to congratulate the CEO, Harry Hughes, and all of his staff for their achievement. In addition to being selected as the overall winner of EY's Entrepreneur of the Year, Harry also won the Best International Entrepreneur category. This is a great accolade for a company based in the west of Ireland. It shows that with vision and commitment, a company based in any region of Ireland can be successful in national or international markets."
Anne Heraty, chairperson of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel, said: “Each year the standard and diversity of entrepreneurs gets higher and we saw a number of outstanding businesses across all three categories. As the finalists progress through the programme, I along with my colleagues on the judging panel put them through a rigorous judging process. This year Harry Hughes stood out — he is a visionary leader who has built a world class business from his roots in Westport. Harry personifies the entrepreneurial spirit and is a role model for any aspiring entrepreneur. The judges were impressed with Harry’s clear thinking, his perseverance, commitment to his team, community, and his humility. In selecting him as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017, we are recognising the excellence and innovation he has brought to the business to help drive it to these heights.”