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A ‘new dawn’ for industrial estate

One of the run-down buildings in Shannon Industrial Estate. Photograph by Declan Monaghan

SPEAKING to The Clare Champion at Shannon this week, Senator Tony Mulcahy said while many of the units at the industrial estate could be knocked down at this stage, he feels a new dawn is about to break and there are positive jobs announcements coming.

 

 

One of the run-down buildings in Shannon Industrial Estate. Photograph by Declan Monaghan

SPEAKING to The Clare Champion at Shannon this week, Senator Tony Mulcahy said while many of the units at the industrial estate could be knocked down at this stage, he feels a new dawn is about to break and there are positive jobs announcements coming.

The Fine Gael representative went on a drive around the airport and industrial estate on Monday with The Clare Champion and said much of the current estate is almost beyond use.

“There’d certainly be about 25% or 30% that’d be in appalling condition, it’d be knockable. You’re not going to get anyone into some of what we’re looking at around here today, I don’t care if they got them for 50c a square foot, they won’t be coming in, taking those. In fairness to Shannon Development, they had a refurbishment plan for the top end of the estate here, which we saw a number of years ago, which would put a lot of aviation companies nearer the ramp and that template needs to be looked at and built upon.”

However, he expressed confidence that the new system, which will combine the running of the industrial zone in Shannon and the airport, will work. “You’re going back 60 years to where it started out and that singular management system, which works. It works in every other airport in the world.”

Good news is just around the corner, he added. “I’d be very confident we’ll have very positive news in the next few months and a lot of it has been flagged already. The time for waiting is over. What people want to see is a very clear roadmap laid out for the next five, 10, 15 years and to be told this is what we are working up to. There will be confidential elements but in the main I think the business plan should be made clear.”
Senator Mulcahy, who was elected top the Seanad for the first time last year having been a councillor for many years, has been based in Shannon since the 1970s when he arrived to work at the airport.

He remembers buses travelling from Golden in South Tipperary to Shannon on a daily basis, bringing people to work, and says much of the decline of the town’s industrial base in recent years has been due to a loss of competitiveness in the Celtic Tiger years. “It’s very simple, you can blame the bank bust and the property crash but it has nothing to do with a lot of it, our costs just got out of control. The biggest issue for a lot of companies around here is the cost of doing business, the unit cost just got ridiculous. I talk to a lot of CEOs around here and they say it had become very uncompetitive. Funnily enough, things have changed fairly dramatically and we have a very high-end, high-quality workforce, so we could snap out of this fairly quick, once we’re competitive again.”

He also said the exchange value of the euro against the US dollar and sterling also impacted upon it.
There are some signs of life there now, he feels.

“Maidenform have moved up and taken the old Bombardier building. The old diamond company, who my company used to supply, that building is in the process of being bought and redeveloped, so there’s a lot of good stuff happening at the edge of the estate itself but this inner part is in an awful state. The only thing is we have plenty of available land, there’s no shortage of it.

“The difficulty is, if you’re looking for high-end, high-quality stuff, Brian O’Connell’s building in Westpark or the old GPA building, which is in the ownership of Shannon Development, are nearly the only options, although there are a few other bits and bobs.”

He acknowledges Shannon’s future is in aircraft-related industries, which are to be prioritised in the future and said there are already a good number of these jobs in existence.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that there could be anything up to 1,400 people already working in that area in the region. They’d be very high-end jobs and highly paid.”

He feels Shannon Airport has a lot of advantages for aviation-related industries interested in coming in.

“You’ve got a 24/7 airport here, also open 365 days a year and it has the second-longest runway in Europe.

“If we can get the cost base right and I hear from people in the industry that we have it right, then it’s wide open. We have the quality of the workforce, which is important.”

Shannon’s success is vital to the wider region, he claimed. “I remember Donal Carey saying once that when Shannon goes well, the region goes well.

“People will say why can’t we have a factory in Scariff or Ballyvaughan and this is no disrespect to anyone but it’s all about cluster activity and connectivity and accessibility. They all live off one another and work off one another.

“We’ve got a lot of companies here but we need to grow and we need to do it under one management company,” he added.

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