In anticipation for the opening of the Webmill (Mountmellick’s new digital hub located in the Mountmellick Development Association building) on Tuesday the 30th of July; we sat down with Facilities Manager Paddy Buggy to find out more about the Webmill, how it came about, the services it offers and its hopes for the future of Mountmellick.
Hi Paddy can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to manage MDA/Webmill?
I started out my working life as an Electronic Engineer working for Bayer Diagnostics, moving to the telecommunications industry where I worked with Lake Communications and Landis & Gyr. Following this I worked with an American multinational called Welch Allyn in their barcoding and data capture division where I was involved initially in Customer support but moved into an international sales role servicing EMEA. Before becoming the Manager of the MDA I was involved in a sales role with a major Irish distributor of POS equipment called IO Resource based in Wicklow. My professional life has been mainly in the technology sector where I moved from the bits and bytes to the commercial side.
I have always been involved in the community with various organisations and it was through my involvement with the MDA that I eventually became the Manager of the MDA.
What is the Webmill and how did it came about?
The Webmill is a state of the art Coworking digital hub with 44 desks located in the MDA Business Park, Irishtown, Mountmellick. The idea for this came about from an analysis of the needs of both Mountmellick and the county in general based on the high number of commuters leaving the county each day, the escalating costs of conducting business in Dublin and an opportunity to attract Inward investment as a result of Brexit.
The facility is a very modern Coworking space with 44 desks, meeting rooms, chill area, canteen and privacy booths. In conjunction with these are free parking, on campus restaurant, on campus crèche, river walk and community park.
What range of services does the Webmill offer clients?
The services offered are:
- High speed broadband with back up to ensure uninterrupted service.
- Meeting spaces
- Privacy booths
- Printing facility
- Free parking
- On campus restaurant
- On campus crèche
- Access to a myriad of services through the Beale Centre
How has the Business Support Unit (Business & Economic Development Department, Laois LEO) assisted in the development/funding of the Webmill?
The Webmill has been funded through Town & Village Renewal funding and funds introduced by the MDA itself through bank loans and own funds. Laois County Council through several departments such as the Business Support Unit, Community, Planning and Laois LEO have been crucial to the development of the Webmill as without both their support and practical help it would not exist. As a team we all saw the rational to develop this facility and the other similar facilities around the county to put in place the infrastructure for both our own commuting population and to attract inward investment into the county.
Tell us about the Beale Centre?
The Beale Centre is a collaboration between the MDA, Enterprise Ireland, Laois County Council, 3rd level institutions NUI Maynooth & Athlone IT, LOETB, IDA, Laois LEO, LPC and going forward it is hoped that Laois Chamber of Commerce will be part of it also. The purpose of the Beale Centre is to have a focal point for start ups, established and exporting businesses throughout County Laois to be able to access the different services provided by all the stake holders. The Beale Centre will introduce people to the relevant agencies depending on their needs whether that is the commercialisation of ideas, access to R&D, access to graduates, to grant aid and help in establishing foreign markets and in establishing a base in Laois. The Beale Centre is all about utilising the best ideas both current and from our past to build a better future here in Laois.
Although based out of the Webmill this service is for ALL businesses in County Laois whether they produce ladybirds or satellites and everything in between.
The Beale Centre name came about as recognition of the Beale Family, a Quaker Family, who employed almost 2000 people during the first half of the 19th century in Mountmellick. During the Famine the Beale Family utilised all of their resources to help the poor and the starving of the area to the extent that they depleted their financial resources. The Beales emigrated to Australia where they once again became prominent business people.
What is the best thing about being involved with the Webmill?
When I was younger there was a tv programme called “Tomorrow’s World” which introduced the general public to new technology advances in the world. The Webmill brings tomorrow’s world of remote working to Mountmellick. It also provides the setting for a new business community to evolve with the cross pollination of ideas and skills which will see many new businesses emerge over the coming years. The Webmill is also playing it’s part in aiding the IDA in promoting Laois as an ideal destination for inward investment by providing the ready made infrastructure for businesses to locate here or to have a second facility here for their staff who want a better work/life balance.
As someone who spent four hours commuting each day I believe that the Webmill will bring huge benefits to those who decide to work here rather than commute through increased productivity, more “me time” and a better work / life balance along with the support of working with like minded individuals. Of course it will have positive environmental benefits also which is a major consideration in light of the new Government decisions on Climate Control.
What are the major challenges for the webmill as it looks towards the future?
Every venture has it’s challenges but we see the services of the Beale Centre as being crucial to minimising these challenges both for the Webmill and the other digital hubs throughout the county.
What motivates the MDA/ Webmill staff?
We thrive on new initiatives like the commercial kitchens which we built in 2014 and are now home to many food entrepreneurs. We are very enthusiastic in being part of this new initiative which will increase the number of people working in the MDA Business Park by 40%. As a group we are always investigating what the next developments are so we can keep up with new trends in order to provide the infrastructure for the next phase of the development of Mountmellick.
What impact would you like to see the Webmill make on the community in Mountmellick?
There are several impacts which the Webmill will make on the community of Mountmellick
- This aims to trigger a turning point in the fortunes of Mountmellick, once the Manchester of Ireland but which suffered much decline since the Famine.
- It allows us to compete with any city in the world as the Webmill infrastructure is second to none providing high speed broadband, 24/7 access in a modern state of the art facility.
- It will attract new world jobs to the town which will benefit the local community.
- Through the Beale Centre it will provide access to 3rd level education through on line access to courses along with access to R&D.
What do you think the MDA/Webmill means to the people in Mountmellick?
The Webmill is symbolic of a changing world, a world in which work can be where you live, where new world technology and careers is possible, where access to further education is only a click away. It means that Mountmellick has the infrastructure in place for ambitious people to make this town prosperous again.
If you would like learn more about the Webmill check out https://www.webmill.ie/ or @mountmellickdevelopment on Facebook. To book facilities please contact Paddy Buggy on 0578624525 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Mountmellick Development Association, Irishtown, Mountmellick, Co. Laois
The Webmill will officially open on Tuesday the 30th of July
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