Film studio will be ‘worth €50m per year’ to Mullingar economy

The film studio proposed for Lough Sheever Business Park will be worth an estimated €50m annually to the local economy if given the go-ahead, and Mullingar businesses will have to be ready to scale up to reap the benefits.

That’s according to Tom Dowling, Hammerlake Studio’s director of development and operations, and the man responsible for getting the project over the line.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner last Friday, Mr Dowling said that Hammerlake estimates that when the second phase of the studio is operational in 2025, it will employ in the region of 1,000 production staff and will generate €50m per annum for the local economy, including €19m in wages alone.

On September 19, Westmeath county councillors will decide whether to allow a material contravention of the county development plan to enable the studio to proceed. If, as expected, they give the project the green light, Mr Dowling, who played a central role in the delivery of Troy Studios in Limerick, says that Hammerlake plans to meet the local business community.

“What I will say to local business is that you need to get clued in early. We found in Limerick that they didn’t take it seriously in the beginning, in terms of the volume. The local hardware stores [in Limerick], didn’t believe the volumes – it’s possible that they could be spending €50,000 to €60,000 a week on plywood and that kind of thing. That’s difficult to get your head around.

“...When a construction buyer walks into your shop and says, ‘I am going to need 10 bales of plywood every week for the next 10 weeks’, take him seriously because if you don’t, he’s just going to run back to Dublin and go to suppliers that he knows will bring it in like that.”

Mr Dowling says that a wide variety of businesses will benefit from having Europe’s largest film studio on their doorsteps.

“Graphics companies, printing companies, courier companies, they’re going to have a field day out of this. Those people are going to be inundated with work. The hotels: there’s going to be a growth in hotels because they will see quickly that there is a demand with the talent coming in, with the exec producers coming. We’re going to use up a lot of hotel beds and it’s not high season, it’s year-round.

“When the talent pool come in they’re probably going to be here for a six- or nine-month period. Not all of them will stay in hotels. If you’ve got a large country manor or somewhere outside of town, you’ll find that there’ll be a demand for that and we’ll have someone in the office who will be scouting for various locations in the region.”

Mr Dowling says that Hammerlake chose Mullingar as the location for its new studio for a number of reasons.

“We did our homework in various towns. Obviously, the fact that it’s just an hour from Dublin was a key one to us. Being on the motorway, connection to the airport, the hotels were the key things, but you walk around Mullingar, you can tell it’s got life. You can sense it. “You drive around the outskirts and you see all the factories on the edge of the town. I’ve seen engineering companies, electrical companies, all the types of support service that we need for the studio. The majority of the work [in set building] will be done by the people in the building, but there will be elements of engineering and electronics that they will farm out. So they will they will quickly make connections with businesses in the town and see where they can assist them, where they can speed up the process. So when they come knocking on your door, welcome them in.”

Mr Dowling says he and his colleagues, such as Hammerlake CEO Paul Chesney, have been heartened by the response locally. “When we went into Westmeath County Council, it was a no-brainer for them. They could see it very early. And then we met with the sitting TDs. They opened various doors for us and we’re grateful to them for that. The arts officer [Miriam Mulrennan] is another example. Mullingar Chamber, I met John Geoghegan early on; again, he could see the potential straight away.”

Hammerlake also met people living near the site of the proposed studio. Some residents expressed concerns about traffic, but Hammerlake allayed their fears, Mr Dowling says.

“Most of our crew are in the building before eight o’clock, some of them come in at six in the morning. So the pattern of movement is different. Most of your traffic here is probably around eight to nine o’clock with the school. We’re already in the building by then. The earliest crews are leaving the building about half six, and most of them are leaving between half six and eight o’clock. We’re outside peak traffic, we’re not adding to that congestion.”