A MAN whose Harbour St business changed guises on a number of occasions over the decades reflecting the evolving dynamics in the town was honoured with the prestigious President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Tullamore Chamber Business Awards on Saturday night last.
Octogenarian Phil O’Reilly is now best known for O’Reilly Funeral Services but his past experiences in the world of business included forays into bicycle repair, toy retailing, hardware and DIY, operating a filling station, gift shop and a school of motoring.
He also successfully ran another business outlet, simply entitled Phil’s, on the Arden Road for over three decades from the mid 1980s onwards.
The popular former inter-county footballer and GAA stalwarts was joined at the awards by his children, Monica, Fiona, Phil Jnr and Frankiethough his wife, Celine was unavoidably absent as she is currently in hospital.
Tribute was paid to the Harbour St business man by the President of Tullamore and District, Chamber of Commerce, Anne Starling who presented the award along with Chief Sponsor, Paul Maloney, Manager, Tullamore AIB.
The prestigious Business Person of the Year Award was scooped by Stepehen O’Connor of D & S Hardware.
Stephen has worked in the hardware sector for the past 30 years and has overseen the growth of D&S Hardware from humble beginnings to the successful business it is today.
Despite trading through an extremely difficult number of years, he has managed to maintain the development of the company during an economic downturn that has seen the demise of many similar businesses.
Stephen, who is also an active member of several local sports group, continues to take a hands-on approach to the business and is instrumental in the development and growth of the organisation.
Tribute was paid to Phil, Stephen and all the award recipients by Anne Starling who also congratulated those local family family businesses over 40 years in existence, a “truly remarkable achievement.” Ms Starling, addressing the 400 or so guests who attended the awards in the Tullamore Court Hotel, commented ”there is a great sense of optimism and positivity in this hotel as we all gather together to celebrate the innovation and creativity of our businesses.”
She said the awards had received a record number of nominations this year and “the judges had an extremely difficult task deliberating over the entries for hours and days.”
”May I say of all the entrants that you are the people who demonstrate vision, courage and ambition to drive both your business and as a consequence Tullamore Chamber forward. You are demonstrating to all of us what we can be.”
Ms Starling added: “We can make Tullamore and its hinterland the best place to start and grow your business. We can make Tullamore the most desirable location to live. We can revitalise our town with all its ongoing projects.”
She singled out the need to prioritise tourism attractions such as the old Harbour and Grand Canal, Durrow Abbey, the world famous Tullamore Dew Visitors Centre and Charleville Castle.
”We can achieve all this and much more by replacing complacency and acceptance with courage and determination. To achieve this we must collaborate and dare to be different and have the courage, drive and ambition to do so.”
Continued the Chamber President: “More than anything else it is my view that people make a town and its hinterland. People like all our Business Award entrants who have great ideas. People with the courage, drive and ambition to solve real problems. People who are putting Tullamore on the map as a place where innovation and creativity shine through our businesses.”
She said what had most impressed her in the past two years in her role as President of Tullamore Commerce was the people who are innovative and creative, forging links, making connections and placing Tullamore on the map – “these people in my view are true heroes”.
”Such people work in our local authorities - working to shape economic development within very constrained budgets but who see beyond those budgets and have the vision and energy to want to make a change,” added Ms Starling.
She stressed the Chamber has developed a great working relationship with Offaly County Council - as this has been evident by our joint ventures to improve the appearance of the town and hinterland. ”Tullamore Chamber’s strategy for the future is to plan for 2040 and beyond. With the expected population growth and employment forecast, infrastructural development must be prioritised as part of our planning.”
She continued: “Our members are telling us they are feeling the cost of rising rent and rates, which is also dampening our attractiveness and reputation both domestically and internationally. We can and must solve the our rising costs problem.”
”Similarly Tullamore is facing intensified competition in the region, and if we want to maintain our position as destination of choice we must explore all possibilities – keep prioritising, adopting, & investing in our tourist infrastructure – Greenway, Art Centre, food market to name but a few – in summary never stop thinking BIG and always strive to be the very best.”
Ms Starling said, despite these challenges, “we are leaders on many fronts and we are definitely doing many things well.” ”It’s our small and medium businesses that give Tullamore its character and have a key role to play in sustaining and driving place and people centred development,” she stressed.