Fehily Timoney & Co is celebrating 30 years in business, and has evolved from a structural engineering firm focusing on pharmaceutical and water services to become a civil and environmental engineering, scientific and planning consultancy with particular expertise in wind, roads and bridges.

Co-founder and MD Eamon Timoney celebrated his 65th birthday in July and is finally starting to take more of a back seat in a business which now includes his daughter, Sinead, and an experienced, multi-skilled board.

Focus has continued to evolve over the years

“We’ve completed hundreds upon hundreds of projects over the past 30 years. The first win in any new sector will always stand out in my memory as being significant. In the early years, our focus was on pharma chem but that quickly changed and has continued to evolve over the years.

“It hasn’t always been a smooth journey. There have been bumps. The recession hit us hard. We had to let up to 100 people go and that really wasn’t easy. We’re a family-run, family focused firm and it really hurt to have to let go some very good people who were very much part of the FT family.”

Predicting trends and economic cycles isn’t as easy as it used to be, he said. “We did see the last bang coming. But we were very big at the time. The Celtic Tiger years were good to us and for a while, we became far too over-reliant on the government sector.

“We learnt our lesson very quickly and since then, we’ve diversified, we’ve protected ourselves more from shocks and have learnt not to be over-reliant on any one sector.

“When you’re very busy, as we were during the boom, you’re so involved in projects that there can be a tendency to let the skills development base slip. We diversified when things calmed down. We reinvented ourselves. That was the key to staying afloat.

“One thing I learnt over that time is to never lose sight of our objectives and that there was no point being a worrier. Thankfully, we regrouped and we looked at the bigger picture and we drove on again.”

On the look-out for graduates with new skills

Fehily Timoney has offices in Dublin, Cork and Carlow and said it is always on the look-out for graduates with new skills.

“We’re not your typical consulting engineering firm that specialises in structural and road works. Today, our team has expertise in waste management and community engagement, in wind farms and an in-house team that specialises in regulatory planning and waste, renewables and the infrastructure surrounding such works.

“It’s hard to predict where the industry is going in the future. But we see our focus being on corporate regeneration works and waste management, environmental and renewable projects.

“Energy management and urban regeneration are likely to be the next ‘big thing’ in an industry that is forever evolving. Lots of the major infrastructural works are complete in Ireland and we’re involved in some of the smaller schemes such as Dunkettle which are under way. Connecting Cork and Limerick will be the next big one on our radar.”

FT has Brexit-proofed itself to an extent. But the uncertainty has impacted on capital projects. The firm has been involved in a huge number of projects across the UK – chief among these the second biggest wind farm in Scotland. A by-pass project, also in Scotland, is almost complete, as are a number of waste projects overseas.

“For the next five years, we will really focus on the Irish sector. We’re still doing some work in the Middle East. We’ve completed some major projects there over the past decade and it has been good to us.

“The biggest issue for us for the future will be resources. It’s very hard to get engineering and science resources – so many graduates left in 2008 and 2009 and didn’t come back.

Engineering and trades focus at second and third level

"Lots of the eastern Europeans have also gone home. We need more of an engineering and trades focus at second and third level if this is to be addressed and if firms such as ours are to survive and grow.”

And what advice would Timoney give himself if he had an opportunity to turn back time? “Don’t be over-reliant on one sector. Diversify and protect yourself against shocks," he said.

"Develop your skills base and keep it developed. And thirdly, maybe set up a business after a recession rather than being at your peak when it hits.”

Today, FT & Co is a very different company to what it was 30 years ago. It has future proofed. It now has close to 70 employees,including engineers, scientists, town planners, geotechnicians and technical support staff.

FT continues to build and strengthen its planning and environmental services, engineering design and construction presence and deliver a huge variety of projects in Ireland, and internationally, in core competency areas of planning, waste management, environment and energy, GIS and data management, geotechnics and civil infrastructure.

Numerous awards include:

• 2017 ACEI Design Excellence Overseas Award for Kilgallioch Wind Farm in Scotland
• Commercial Media Group Award (CMG) for the International Environmental Project of the Year for the Jeddah Environmental Assessment and Jeddah Environmental and Social Masterplan in Saudi Arabia
• Engineering Practice/Consultant of the Year 2012, 2011 and 2010 – CMG
• International Environmental Project of the Year 2013 (Jeddah ESMP) – CMG
• Finalists in the 2012 Green Awards Innovation category for works in landfill gas management on Irish landfills
• 2012 Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland – FT received a commendation for Excellence in the Design of the Sajja Waste Management Facility, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
• 2009 Repak Civic Amenity Site/Recycling Centre of the Year 2009 South Tipperary County Council – Cashel Recycling Centre 2008
• Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland President’s Award – High Commendation – Innovation in Design of Landfill Gas Management Philosophy
• 2006 Irish Concrete Society Award – Overall winner 2006 – Cathleen Falls Bridge (N15 Bundoran – Ballyshannon By-Pass)
• 2006 Public Service Excellence Award (Department of the Taoiseach) – Blackash Park and Ride Facility, Cork
• 2006 President’s Award for Excellence (Finalist) – Association of Consulting Engineers – Mardyke Pedestrian Bridge (River Lee, Cork)
• 2003 Geotechnical Prize – Engineers Ireland 2003 – for Geotechnical Engineering and Environmental Aspects of Clay Liners for Landfill Projects
• 2000 President’s Award for Excellence – Association of Consulting Engineers. Arthurstown Landfill, (Co. Kildare)
• 2000 Construction Industry Excellence Awards – Commendation. Construction Industry Federation (Civil Engineering Category) – Arthurstown Landfill
• 2000 Construction Industry Federation – Construction Excellence Award (Special Structures)