THIS month it will be 50 years since SPS first arrived in Shannon and to mark the milestone, a reunion of current and former employees along with guests will be held on Thursday, September 11.
At the time that SPS came to Ireland, the Mid-West was just about to emerge as a significant industrial zone and Shannon had a lot to offer, according to Seamus O’Sullivan who worked for the company in a variety of roles.
“Ireland was planning to join the EU, it was an English-speaking company and labour rates were competitive to say the least of it. SPS saw what was happening and decided they wanted to come in. Tom Hallowell Jr was CEO and he gave the go-ahead to build the facility,” he says.
At the time, Mr Hallowell decided to come to Shannon because of what he said were “certain advantages in doing businesses internationally from the area”.
Just 10 months after signing a contract, a fully serviced 100,000ft2 factory was open for business.
It was a huge boost for Shannon, according to Seamus. “Clare had gone from having a population of around 250,000 at the time of the Famine to down around 120,000 at the time of Independence. By 1960, it was down again to about 73,000. There was a lot of unemployment and emigration. Not that many people were going to second-level education and third level was for very, very few.”
At the time, he said that Brendan O’Regan had a vision for revitalising the Mid-West, and he had found allies in Government.
“Lemass was Taoiseach and his economic adviser was TK Whitaker, and they shared his vision. It was backed with supports and tax incentives.”
A number of advance factories were built and Sony arrived, as did Rippen, who manufactured pianos, along with SPS.
The company quickly became established, and five years later, out of a total employment of 500, there were only three Americans. In 1967, it established a facility in Galway, reflecting how pleased it was with operations in Shannon.
In 1985, the company established a separate brand ‘Hi Life Tools’ and manufacturing facility in Shannon, to make precision tooling for the fastener industry. Today, the company continues to supply precision tooling to its parent company Precision Castparts Corporation (PCC) and to other fastener manufacturers in the US, Europe and Asia. Hi Life’s tooling is now used in the manufacture of precision fasteners and components for the aerospace, automotive and mining industries. Today, it employs 101 people in Shannon and it has expanded its operations to provide machining to the medical devices industry.
SPS Technologies Inc was taken over by PCC in 2004. This company makes parts for the aerospace industry as well as casings for use in other applications. In June 2008, PCC sold its Unbrako Fastener business to Deepak Fasteners Ltd.
Today, Deepak Fasteners (Shannon) Ltd, operating from the original SPS facility in Shannon, is the HQ for the Unbrako brand worldwide. Deepak Fasteners employs 76 people in the manufacture of the Unbrako range and precision automotive parts.
SPS/Hi Life Tools and Unbrako are attempting to contact former employees to invite them to a celebration in Bunratty Folk Park on September 11. While it won’t be possible to personally invite all former workers, they and their partners are all welcome to join the celebrations.
The day will start with mass at the Mary Immaculate Church in Shannon at 12 noon in memory of deceased employees. Later in the day, there will be a 50th anniversary celebration in the Folk Park.
If former employees would like to attend the Folk Park celebrations, they can book a ticket by contacting 061 239 546 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.