High Flyers: How OBP manager Patricia came to supply Bob Dylan's shirts

Patricia McNeill
Patricia McNeill Patricia McNeill

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Patricia McNeill, manager at Ormeau Business Park, which this year is celebrating 21 years in business at the Gasworks in south Belfast.

What was your first job?

My first job was in British Home Stores in Belfast, a job I managed to acquire through a friend of a friend. I was 16 and was studying for O-Levels at Ashleigh House Grammar School so the extra money introduced me to independence.

What qualifications do you have?

I graduated with a Diploma in Textiles & Fashion Design from the Art College at Ulster University in 1985. I also hold a Master of Science in innovation management which has provided me with crucial business skills for my current role at Ormeau Business Park.

What do you attribute your success to?

I had a great education and was surrounded by positive people that have inspired me in many ways. I have enjoyed the challenges of new territories and in 1999 I applied for a job at the Ormeau Business Park (OBP) and was the first employee on the Gasworks site. I was handed a fantastic opportunity by the board of directors who had great faith in me to develop this organisation. I jumped at the chance to be part of what is now a landmark site where OBP has been operating for twenty-one years.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

Creative, loyal, happy, straightforward and I hope, fun!

Who do you look up to in business?

I have learnt so much from OBP’s former chairman Tom Beare MBE, who established Cardiac Services. Tom was an innovator, a philanthropist, a gentleman, and my mentor. Tom was a positive and strong individual who chaired his last meeting of our board two weeks prior to his death in July this year. Tom had a deep respect for mankind, and we shall be remembering his great contribution to our organisation.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I believe it is important to enjoy your work and this, I hope, is reflected in the organisation that we have created. We are a small core team with a board of talented, voluntary directors who work well together.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

Top of my list would be the reduction of business rates. We need to support our small business sector and help breathe oxygen into the high street and local shopping areas in our own neighbourhoods.

What website or app could you not do without?

None - I am very happy to live without any of them.

What was the last book you read?

The Prosecutor by Nazir Afzal.

What car do you drive?

I am lucky to have access to two cars as I drive a Range Rover Evoque Sport, and I also have kept my late mum’s Volkswagen Polo which is an extremely reliable car.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I was self-employed for 10 years running my design business, mainly selling my linen designs products in Powerscourt Design Centre, Dublin. I also specialised in fashion drawing and had fashion illustrations published in the Irish Times. I designed a range of men’s linen shirts under my label, Linen Polis, which I sold via mail order.

The Hastings Hotel group allowed me to showcase my work by having it displayed in a glass cabinet on the first floor of the Europa Hotel. Bob Dylan and his entourage were playing in Belfast and made a sizeable order for my linen shirts!

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

I remain passionate about all areas of the arts, and I am proud to be a director on the board of Craft NI, which is the sector lead body for the promotion and development of design led contemporary craft in Northern Ireland.

I have also been a member of the Belfast Boat Club since I was a teenager and continually strive to improve my game of tennis. I am extremely excited to say I have tickets for the men’s French Open finals in June 2022. Having spent my summers in my youth in the Western Algarve I can without a doubt say it will always be my happy place.