Galway businessman John Flaherty, founder of C&F Group, received Ireland’s coveted business award when he was named as the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® at a ceremony last week.
Mr Flaherty was first announced as winner of the international category before receiving the overall title, which was presented by the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Established in Ballybane in 1989, the C&F Manufacturing Group commenced as a small specialist company focusing principally on import substitution in the supply of tool making services to Ireland’s established base of multinational companies.
The company has since expanded its Galway interests to a purpose built facility in Athenry and progressed to a global solutions provider to the sheet metal industry with overseas operations now in the UK, Czech Republic, the Philippines and most recently China where Flaherty opened a manufacturing plant in July of this year.
C&F Group’s core business is product and tool design, tool manufacture and metal production. The company counts some of the world’s largest multinational companies amongst its client base including household names such as IBM, EMC, APC, Ingersoll Rand, Glen Dimplex, Sanyo and Hitachi Koki. Sales revenue for C&F has risen consistently over the last five years and for 2007 reached $53 million in Ireland and $100 million globally.
Enda Kelly, partner-in-charge, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Programme, said that Mr Flaherty is at the forefront of Irish companies contributing to the new global economy and has implemented an innovative and successful business model.
“The Entrepreneur of the Year Programme provides us with valuable role models whose experience can teach both Ireland’s existing and future business people. John Flaherty will undoubtedly be an excellent ambassador for entrepreneurship in Ireland,” he added.
”The extraordinary growth of C&F was achieved without a significant cash investment, but rather through shrewd financial management, close examination of potential cost improvements, commitment to new technology and best manufacturing process.
“The company employs a total of 984 people and contributes around $11 million in wages alone from its Galway operation. It has further significant impact on the Irish economy, sourcing raw materials, hardware, packaging, transport services, plant equipment and consumables from some 17 indigenous suppliers around the country.
Denis O’Brien, chairman of the judging panel and a former winner of the award, commented on the high quality of finalists this year, stating they are testament to the successful entrepreneurial community growing in Ireland. “When global manufacturing moved east in the late 1990s, John Flaherty refused to allow his Irish enterprise sleepwalk its way into extinction. To build a global business that has maintained its Irish manufacturing base is admirable,” O’Brien added.
Two other key awards were announced amongst the 24 finalists, Stephen Grant, Grant Engineering was named Industry Entrepreneur of the Year and Sean Rowland, Hibernia College, became the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 winner. In recent years, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Programme has expanded to recognise exceptional achievements outside of the traditional business arena and awards a Special Award each year. This year it was awarded to designer John Rocha for his contribution to Irish fashion on the international stage for the past three decades.
The winners were chosen from a total of 24 finalists shortlisted by a judging panel from over 150 entries. The panel, chaired by Denis O’Brien, looks at criteria including growth in turnover, and employee numbers, together with factors such as vision, degree of innovation, creativity in production and marketing and performance in local and international markets.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Awards are part of a global recognition programme to identify, acclaim and support entrepreneurs. Now in its 11th year in Ireland the programme is supported by Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland, Invest Northern Ireland, The Irish Times, RTE and Digicel.
John Flaherty will now go on to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo in June 2009, where over 10,000 entrepreneurs will vie for the worldwide title.