Backing Galway 2020 bid is just the business

Mark O’Donnell, responsible for Business Engagement and Regional Partnerships for Galway 2020.
Mark O’Donnell, responsible for Business Engagement and Regional Partnerships for Galway 2020.

Mark O’Donnell of the Galway 2020 bid team tells the Tribune of the fantastic support received from businesses and how they can further help in promoting Galway’s chances.

Mark O’Donnell has one of the most challenging jobs in Galway at the moment but it also appears to be one of the most enjoyable.

Mark is responsible for Business Engagement and Regional Partnerships for Galway 2020.

What’s the challenge with that you may ask.

The budget for Galway 2020 is €45.75m and 15% or €6.75m of that must come from the private sector, mostly businesses.

The challenge for Mark and the Business Engagement team is to raise that €6.75m.

The enjoyment he gets from this seemingly mammoth task is obvious on meeting him.

‘This is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Galway’, he says.

‘The potential benefits to the entire region if we’re successful are enormous and I am working as part of an energetic and creative team. Why wouldn’t I be excited by it?


So how do you go about convincing people and businesses in Galway and beyond to contribute a total of €6.75m?

‘At this stage we’re not looking for cash in the bank’, says Mark.

‘What we are asking is that businesses pledge their support – in financial terms – to Galway 2020.

‘There will be no contract in place at this stage and we’ll sit down and work out the details with each one if we’re successful with the bid.

So what you’re looking for now is for people to confirm their support by promising to contribute cash or services to the Galway 2020 project if the bid is successful – but they won’t have to pay over anything this year, or next?

‘Exactly!’ says Mark.


The benefits outlined by the Galway 2020 team are based heavily on the experience of Derry/Londonderry when it was the very first UK City of Culture in 2013.

‘The experience there was very positive with a reported 25% increase in visitors to the city and surrounding areas in 2013,’ confirms Mark.

Can Galway expect to see similar increases?

‘We’re predicting at least an average 15% increase in visitors in from 2019 onwards, based on the experience in Derry and other European Capitals of Culture. In 2020 that could reach 40%.

‘There will be many other benefits (see panel), and we’re particularly focussed on ensuring there will be a strong, sustainable legacy after 2020.

The hospitality sector across the city and county would be an obvious beneficiary of Galway securing the bid, but lots of different types of businesses see potential gains.

For example, Graham Roberts of the Connemara Smokehouse in Ballyconneely believes it will have a positive impact on his export trade.

‘We already have strong trade with France and this has the potential to give us great exposure in other European countries,’ said Graham at a recent Galway 2020 Business Engagement event.

For companies keen on attracting and retaining the best staff for example Galway’s IT and Med-Tech sectors, the experience of previous capitals of culture is a 15% increase in the retention of skilled workers.


Mark has been amazed at the willingness of local businesses to step forward and support Galway 2020 with pledges.

‘We’ve had a fantastic response to our €2,020 appeal with most of those pledging that amount for four years,’ he says.

‘Other businesses have offered services to a very high value without even being asked.

Combined these exceed €1 million, but there is still a long way to go to achieve the target of €6.75 million.

They’re extremely grateful to Galway city’s business community which last year agreed to a 3% increase in rates to help prepare the bid.

The panel of judges commented that they had never seen this level of commitment from a business community at the bid stage.

Decision time

Members of the judging panel will be visiting Galway on July 10th and 11th and it’s important that businesses throughout the county and city show their support for the bid – because it will benefit all.

In addition to pledging financial support, there are lots of ways to do this:

■ Decorate your house, office, village and town in Galway 2020’s flags and colours. Contact the Galway 2020 office to find out how to get flags and bunting.

■ Follow the #Galway2020 campaign on social media, by adding a Galway 2020 Twibbon to your social media profiles, download the Galway 2020 brand campaign pack.

■ Make sure all your work colleagues know about Galway 2020 and show their support on social media.

■ Get creative with photos, paintings and performances from all over the world to show how much Galway really wants this!

Raising €6.75 million from businesses is a very tall order. The short and long-term benefits for Galway of being selected as European Capital of Culture 2020 are tremendous.

It’s an exciting time to be part of something with such a potentially huge positive impact on the region.

No wonder Mark and the full 2020 team are enthusiastic about the challenge.