In 1999, Krups Engineering Limited at Roxboro in Limerick closed with the loss of 500 manufacturing and 700 indirect jobs. This was a devastating blow to the local communities and, in particular, to Southill, where Krups was the biggest employer. On the old Krups site now stands Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership (LEDP), a village-type operation housing a mix of economic activities and social and community-based services. There are more people employed at LEDP now than when Krups closed. The purchase of Krups by local partners and its redevelopment was the brainchild of Michael Tiernan. Despite significant resistance to the plan, Michael pursued his vision with the dedication and persuasive powers needed to bring the project to fruition. LEDP is a testament to Michael's commitment to broadening the social and community agenda - a principle that is evident throughout his life and career.
Born in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, Michael was educated at the Salesian Convent, Limerick and Westport CBS. After graduating from NUIG with a degree in engineering, he began his career in the construction and civil engineering industry with P.J. Walls Limited, which was then building the first phase of NIHE. Having a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Michael founded Tiernan Properties in 1981. In a pragmatic and visionary response to the recession of the 1980s, during which time he personally faced the prospect of emigration, Michael conceived of and began working on the innovative Arthur's Quay development. When it opened in October 1989, Arthur's Quay was the first city centre shopping centre of its kind in the mid-west region and was an important project in the redevelopment of Limerick's inner city. Tiernan Properties expanded its operations throughout the 1990s and developed projects in Roscrea, Longford, Athlone and Tuam.
In 1996, Michael's social and community interests led to his becoming a founding member of Limerick Enterprise Network (LEN), which was established to consider the issue of redundancy, encourage enterprise and generate employment in Limerick. On his return in late 1998 from a seminar in Vienna on the issue of unemployment in EU urban areas, Michael learned of the imminent closure of Krups. The timing seemed providential, and wishing to do something about it himself, Michael immediately set about developing an alternative proposal for the Krups site. The redevelopment plan involved the purchase of the site by a local partnership of public, private and voluntary organisations. The objective was to create new opportunities for education, training, enterprise and employment for the local communities using an integrated model of physical, economic and social regeneration. This goal was realised when Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership, or LEDP, was established in 1999 as a charitable organisation and a social enterprise. Michael Tiernan, the visionary who formulated a Limerick solution to a Limerick problem, was appointed chairman of the first LEDP board.
Chorus, now UPC, was secured as the 'anchor' tenant, and when CERT's catering training facility relocated to the site, LEDP was truly on its way. Despite some initial resistance to the plan, which was based around a fear of duplicating the work of state agencies, Limerick City Council became LEDP's lead supporting partner, and the enterprise now works hand in glove with many such agencies.
Through prudent financial management and the sale of land around the Krups factory, LEDP became debt-free in 2006. It now generates gross rental income of €750,000 per annum, which allows it to fund social and education projects in the local communities. LEDP houses a range of education, training, enterprise and social projects, including the UL Access Campus Office, homework clubs, a boat-building school, a busy café and a crèche. LEDP's 35 tenants currently provide over 700 jobs, and the site has an estimated weekly footfall of between 10,000 and 12,000.
In addition to property development, Michael Tiernan has a track record of innovation and success in the communications infrastructure industry. In 2000, after becoming aware of a digital divide between the capital and the regions, Michael established Enet to address the issues of poor rural broadband coverage and the cost of ICT connectivity. In 2005, Enet was awarded a 15-year concession to manage the state's fibre-optic infrastructure, and the company now delivers reduced-price broadband to 94 Irish towns. Enet is the only carrier-neutral, wholesale telecoms provider in Ireland and is utilised by companies such as BT, Imagine, UPC and Vodafone. In 2013, Enet was confirmed as one of the most influential Irish technology companies by being named in Ireland's Tech 100 list.
Michael's commitment to the Limerick region led him to become involved in the renewal of the old Customs House building as the location of the Hunt Museum. As well as serving as a member of the Hunt Museum board from 1993 to 1999, Michael served as a director of Limerick Chamber of Commerce during the 1990s and as a board member of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies from 2007 to 2012. He is currently working with Limerick City and County Council on initiatives that form part of 'Limerick 2030', the city's economic development strategy.
A firm believer in the value of education, Michael Tiernan has served on the boards of management of Roxboro National School and Crescent College Comprehensive SJ. The location of the UL Access Campus Office at LEDP is evidence of Michael's commitment to the ideal of making education accessible to all.
When asked what drives him to work unstintingly in the service of others, Michael refers to what he describes as straightforward Christian consideration, which is what gives him, to quote Bertrand Russell, a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage and an imperative for honesty. Michael has been supported in all his endeavours by his wife, Maeve, and their seven children, Mark, Hugh, Ruth, Eoin, David, Kate and Ross.
As a current member of the board of the UL Foundation and a past director of Plassey Campus Centre, Michael has been a long-time friend to the University of Limerick, and we are proud to honour him today.