Grant Aid Testimonial

Joe Bonnar Metal Crafts – forging ahead with their reputation for excellence


When Mark Patton of Joe Bonnar Metal Crafts Ltd walked through the doors of Donegal Local Enterprise Office, he says he did so thinking that it might not do any good – but it certainly wouldn’t do any harm. Almost two years on, and having seen the business benefit immensely from grant aid and other enterprise assistance, Mark says he couldn’t recommend engagement with Donegal Local Enterprise Ofice highly enough.“I went along thinking to a Profitnet meeting thinking that this won’t do any harm, but I didn’t know what it was about really. I would have known most of the engineering companies there, but I got to know some of them a lot better than I would have known them if I didn’t take part. There were people there established in business for years, they were used to the questions being asked about situations being raised. I was green about the ears and over the months you were learning from the experiences of people there,” said Mark. By that stage he had come a long way from his meagre beginnings with Joe Bonnar Metal Crafts, having first come through the doors back in 1993 for two weeks of work experience when he was on a sheet metal programme in FÁS.


“I came in for two weeks and I must have been ok because I was sent on a four year apprenticeship programme. I spent a year at college then in Waterford, did time in Cork and worked here on the Saturdays as well.” After his apprenticeship was completed and a few years on the floor in Joe Bonnar Metal Crafts, Mark progressed to the position of foreman before he took over the day to day running of the business around two years ago with the current foreman Darragh Creevy.Once Mark had established contacts with Donegal Local Enterprise Office, it proved to be a godsend in many respects, opening up new avenues of information, access to shared knowledge and especially information about grant-aided assistance that he just wasn’t aware existed. For a business like Joe Bonnar Metal Crafts - who export their high-quality bespoke metal products all over the world – the opportunity to acquire every bit of help to the further development of the business was hugely beneficial.


Donegal Local Enterprise Office are currently actively looking for suitable grant aid products within the manufacturing and international tradeable services sectors for 2016. For businesses in those categories, getting in touch with them is something Mark highly recommends. “Once we had engaged with Donegal Local Enterprise Office we found that we suddenly had a stream of information about supports for business that we just weren’t aware of before. We got to know about financial assistance for companies who are investing in machinery and we have received grant assistance towards purchasing a new machine that we required for a few years.


For us, getting that machine means that we can now tender for work that before we’d either have to get somebody else to do that aspect of the work or perhaps not even tender for it at all. It will also give us the option of introducing new products to the market, something that we are hoping we will soon be able to do down the line.” In recent times introduction of a mandatory conformity marking for certain products sold within the European Economic Area (CE Marking) has also become an issue local manufacturers have had to deal with, but once more Mark says there has been great assistance available locally through Donegal Local Enterprise Office.


“CE marking came into play last year and through the engineering Profitnet group we are working together as a group, sharing information on that process. Some people are further ahead of the process than others, but we are all keeping in contact with each other and assisting each other so we can all get the CE marking over the line.” With opportunities to collaborate and co-operate now grown, Mark says there have been jobs that they’ve referred on to other engineering firms in the county and he maintains, the benefits of being part of a shared group have been immense. “As an example for instance, we were sending a lot of work to Limerick for laser cutting. Through Profitnet we met James Cuddihy of Welditz in Carndonagh who does that and we send our stuff there now. We are keeping money in the county and hopefully jobs in the county as a result.” Having access now to guidance from the Local Enterprise Office is also invaluable for him as he works to manage a business that has eight full-time employees and a growing customer base.


“When I got out of the workshop I looked forward to the new challenge coming into the office. Thankfully I get on well with the customers and I have built up a good relationship with them. There is very hard work in the office and a lot of things to do – it is not easy to get the balancing act right keeping the clients and the staff happy.” But, he adds, with a workforce who are extremely proud of their work and who produce items of exceptional quality, they have managed to do that. “Like any business, it is important to have the right staff. The guys we have here have almost all been here for ten years or more. They have a huge pride in their job and they will work around the clock to make sure we can deliver on time for deadlines while ensuring that the products we send out from our factory floor are of the very highest quality.


We work with designers, often delivering on a vague concept of theirs that is loosely sketched out. They trust our expertise and reputation for quality. They know we won’t just throw out something cheap and cheerful. As a result of that though we are always on a tight timeframe and the staff we have know this. At the drop of a hat they will work six or seven days a week. You need the right staff, without that you are snookered.” Their reputation for exceptional products means that as much as 30% of their products go for export – mainly to USA and Canada – and Mark says the company is looking ahead to another busy year in 2016. He also says he fully expects to maintain the links forged now with Donegal Local Enterprise Office. “I really would recommend to any business to make sure they engage with Donegal Local Enterprise Office. We hadn’t done that until just around two years ago, but since then the grant aid we have received, the sharing of information and the tips on day to day running of the business we have got, have all been priceless.”


If you have a manufacturing business and employ less than 10 people and are based in Donegal please contact  or book to  attend our next information workshop on applying for grant aid here