WHILE the country is firmly in the grip of recession, there has been at least one positive development, with the news that the new Zimmer plant in Shannon has begun shipping commercial products in recent weeks.
The Zimmer plant now employs 70 people, with the number expected to rise to around 250 over the next few years.
The economic landscape is now completely different to February 2008, when Micheál Martin came to Shannon for the announcement that Zimmer was to invest in the region of US$75 million locally. However, Mayor of Shannon, Seán McLoughlin said that Zimmer has provided some hope in a very worrying time.
“It’s great that it’s up and running now,” he commented. “It does give us a glimmer of hope and it’d be great if they were to increase the numbers working there in the near future. I’d hope that Shannon Development and the IDA will be encouraging them to do that.”
Councillor McLoughlin said that maintaining Shannon’s manufacturing base was important.
“We have a huge workforce here who are used to manufacturing and jobs are needed for them, as well as higher-end jobs. Zimmer is the type of company that should be encouraged to come here because we have a good workforce, suitable buildings and infrastructure. It’s also important that we promote the airport and it’s important that we have good links to the US,” he added.
At the moment, the Zimmer plant in Shannon is producing knee replacement components, although other products could be added in the future. While it is known that the company was provided with incentives, such as tax rate adjustments and training grants, actual amounts were not disclosed.
When it was announced that Zimmer would be coming to Shannon, the then chief executive of Shannon Development, Kevin Thompstone said it was a coup for the Mid-West.
This week, a Shannon Development spokesperson said the fact that the company was now in production was very positive. “Shannon Development is delighted that Zimmer has reached an important milestone in shipping its first products from its new facility in the Shannon Free Zone. We have worked closely with Zimmer management and staff since their start-up at Shannon, and we congratulate them on their achievement.”
Zimmer was founded in 1927 and is headquartered in the state of Indiana, in the US. It is a leader in designing, developing and manufacturing orthopaedic reconstructive, spinal and trauma devices, dental implants and related orthopaedic surgical products.
While Zimmer is providing some employment, Shannon has been hit with major job losses at companies such as Element Six, Molex and Avocent.