Enterprise board future in doubt as chief executive job becomes vacant

The future of the Mayo County Enterprise board remains in doubt from this autumn when CEO Frank Fullard is set to retire, with no indication of a successor being appointed to his position.

Mr Fullard, who has worked in the public sector for more than 40 years, has headed up the County Enterprise Board since its establishment in 1994 and is recognised for the great energy and enthusiasm he has brought to the job. Over the years Mr Fullard, in tandem with assistant CEO Padraig McDermott, has helped hundreds of people in the county set up and develop their businesses. As part of its brief to create an enterprise culture within the county, the board has provided start-up assistance and ongoing support to businesses in the form of financial and business advice, counselling and management development training.

In addition to sanctioning life-saving capital, employment, and feasibility study grants for successful applicants over the years, thousands of people have also benefited from the many business training courses offered by the board covering everything from basic bookkeeping to human resource management. In recent years the board has moved fluidly with the times, developing modern technology including specialised tuition in on-line business marketing and social media. Mr Fullard himself spearheaded the first ever on-line women’s business forum in Ireland, which has received international acclaim. (www.irishbusinesswomen.com )

Retiring from such a heavy workload after so many years, Mr Fullard, who has a keen interest in photography, is looking forward to the break. He is also hopeful that the Government will see fit to secure the future of the board by filling the vacancy once he leaves. A recent job advertisement for a CEO of Galway Enterprise Board suggests that the future of the board there is safe but in the absence of a similar job for Mayo, it also raises questions as to whether the plan is to merge Mayo with the Galway Enterprise Board.

“No one has come out and said enterprise boards will be left there so for the moment they will continue,” Mr Fullard told the Mayo Advertiser this week. “The Galway position is for a two-year contract but we don’t see anything happening here. We did have a meeting with the Department for Trade, Employment, and Enterprise and our contribution towards local job creation was acknowledged in a positive way.

“We have a buoyant reasonably small business sector in Mayo going through difficult circumstances and people are still interested in trying new things. We also find that increasingly people are trying to use new media to develop their businesses, and websites are seen more and more as an integral part that, once properly constituted, can help generate sales and add to the bottom line.”

Mayo county manager Peter Hynes said Mr Fullard’s contribution to the public sector in general and in Mayo in particular had been immense. “It’s unfortunate we lose people of Frank’s experience at any time and the county is a far better place for his efforts. It isn’t possible at this point to say where the Government will take county enterprise boards. The future is not clear and we hope the situation will be clarified soon.

“Obviously there is a need for a chief executive of the County Enterprise Board and the position requires a full-time replacement as it is not a part-time job. It’s not absolutely clear that it won’t be filled but it is uncertain. It must be noted that in terms of start-up enterprises the board’s contribution has been significant. It is very important a big county like Mayo has the possibility within its own control of supporting small and indigenous enterprises. Also the board understands the people and the climate in the county and can assist in other specific ways. It’s not all about large grants but is sometimes just as much about mentoring and pointing people in the right direction.”


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