NEXT year’s 60th anniversary celebrations in Rowa Pharmaceuticals, Bantry are off to an early start after the company took top honours at The Southern Star’s West Cork Business and Tourism Awards.
The inaugural gala awards dinner took place in Inchydoney Lodge and Spa, to celebrate business excellence in the area.
The Southern Star received 240 entries from 128 different business organisations, from which a shortlist was chosen with 12 winners across a variety of categories announced on the night.
Joe Keane, head of operations at Rowa, along with Michael Lyons, financial controller, and other members of the team, represented the 100-strong workforce at the ceremony.
Before a capacity crowd of 240, Michael said they were extremely proud to have been in business for 60 years, and for manufacturing and exporting from a rural area to 75 countries.
Earlier in the evening, when Joe accepted their category award for Best Small to Medium Enterprise from host Síle Seoige, he joked he was in the bad books at home for missing the Late Late Toy Show.
‘I reckon this puts me in the clear now!’ he quipped when accepting the prize.
The leading pharmaceutical company, which manufacturers generic products to sell in this country, along with making a range of their own products for export, was set up in 1959 by German Roland Wagner after he had visited the area on what was a particularly good summer.
He even built his own airstrip there to make it easier to travel between Bantry and his home place of Cologne.
He died in 1979 and his wife Brigitte Wagner Halswick took over, and developed the generic side of the business, where they’ve had huge success in what’s a very competitive market.
Ms Wagner now spends around one week every month in Bantry and travels extensively to develop new markets.
Michael and Joe said their focus this year, and every year, was to develop new products with 20 new products coming on stream in 2019.
‘We’re looking at the area of high-tech medicines for the relief and treatment of things like arthritis,’ said Michael.
‘We’re also looking at the export side of things and developing markets in the Eastern block countries such as Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan and to resume trade with Libya.’
Research with UCC will continue, he said.
They’ve a strong staff retention rate. Of their 100 staff, most have been with Rowa for 15 to 20 years. Michael has been with the company for 20 years, and Joe 21.
They also have strong ties within the community, in particular Bantry Hospice, sharing administrative and meeting rooms with them.
Reflecting on the win, Joe said they had almost not entered as they were almost ‘too busy.’
However, the win marks the start of a fantastic year ahead which, among other events, will see 80 Rowa agents travel to Bantry from places like Russia, Hong Kong and Korea to join their anniversary celebrations.
On the theme of anniversary celebrations, MD of The Southern Star, Sean Mahon earlier noted the newspaper will next year mark its 130th year in business.
‘And our commitment to you is that we will keep promoting and championing business and tourism in West Cork to as big an audience as we possibly can,’ he said.
Outlining the idea behind the awards he said: ‘Given that, as we know, West Cork is a hot bed of innovation, creativity and most importantly a powerful ‘can do’ attitude and given that we interact with hundreds of local businesses and tourism organisations every year in the course of The Southern Star’s day to day operations, we said it was about time we created a new overarching awards programme to celebrate business excellence here.
‘And for me these awards have reinforced that there are businesses of all types, shapes and sizes in all parts of West Cork doing incredible things, and proving that as long as we have the appropriate infrastructure and supports in place for the region it is possible to live here, to run a successful business here, to employ people here and to live a balanced lifestyle in a beautiful part of Ireland – something we’re all very lucky to be able to do and which people elsewhere are often jealous of.’
Tim Lucey, county council chief executive, spoke of a recent survey they conducted to establish how people rated their quality of life.
‘We found that 92% of people in Cork were satisfied with their quality of life; but that’s probably 99% in West Cork,’ he joked.
He added: ‘We want to give confidence to you as employers, as people who rely on us to grow that quality of life.’
He revealed the local authority is currently in advanced negotiations with two major investment banks to put in place two, five-year strategic investment packages of up to €200m on projects and products that might not otherwise get government funding.
These would be things, he said, like relief roads and public realm improvements in places like Bantry, Castletownbere and Bantry.
‘Ultimately we need to work together to move forward. We support progress in communities and for us West Cork is the stand-up winner in the country across all areas.’
• Award sponsors: AIB, Eli Lilly, Clonakilty Black Pudding, The Blue Haven Hotel, Skibbereen & Bandon Credit Union, Blueprint Financial Planning, Trigon Hotels and Fitzgerald & Partners
• Judges: Deirdre O’Mahony and Rose Carroll, Cork County Council; John O’Doherty, AIB; Adrienne Harrington, Ludgate Hub; Sean Mahon of The Southern Star and Des O’Dowd of Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa resort.