With Brexit and the new Trump Administration in the United States on the horizon, it’s certainly going to be an interesting 2017. Limerick is ready and up for the challenge.
Limerick City and County Council Chief Executive Conn Murray has laid out a very clear plan stating: “This is about capitalising on Limerick’s opportunity to become the best placed city in Europe to capitalise on post-Brexit inward investment opportunities.”
The intention is clear that investment will continue and plans to develop the city and county will continue to be implemented. Standing still is not an option.
Work will continue on the four key strategic sites indentified in Limerick Twenty Thirty – namely the Gardens International Office, Opera, Cleeves and Troy Studios.
World class availability of office space is one of the critical elements in attracting investment. Limerick has already set out its stall in developing these sites, with one eye on companies thinking of moving post-Brexit.
The vision of the local authority in buying these sites for development is beginning to have an impact in the private sector. Planning permission has been granted for further office space in City East Plaza and a €40 million development on Bishop’s Quay.
2016 was by far a very successful year for Limerick and the Mid West for foreign direct investment.
Figures from IDA Ireland show there was a 10 percent increase in total employment in their client companies in the Mid West last year – the highest percentage increase in the country.
17,143 people were employed by IDA Ireland client companies in the Mid West region by the end of the year, reflecting growth across the sectors.
2016 saw a consistent flow of new and existing companies investing in the region. Niall O’Callaghan Mid West Regional Manager with IDA Ireland said: “The Mid-West Region, with Limerick at its core, has seen the most significant period of FDI investments in its history over the past 2 years – delivering world renowned companies such as Regeneron, Northern Trust, Uber and ACI Worldwide to name but a few.”
“The focus of the IDA Ireland Mid-West Office remains utterly focused on delivering the ambitious targets set out to 2019 in our ‘Winning FDI 2015-2019’ strategy document. Thus with maintained strong collaborative relationships with all stakeholders, the expectation is that we will continue to deliver on those targets, once the City continues to develop residential and commercial solutions.”
But what about 2017 - what does the next 12 months hold for business in Limerick?
The IDA will be building on what has been a very successful few years in attracting FDI to the Limerick region.
Niall O’Callaghan said: “The IDA Ireland Mid-West Office will continue to position this region with our Divisions and Overseas network as a unique location for FDI. Building on recent ICT successes (e.g. General Motors, Trusource Labs), there is an emerging tech cluster gathering pace in Limerick, building on the long standing presence of great companies such as Analog Device and Dell EMC. Almost 70% of all IDA Ireland client investments come from existing client companies, and I expect this to continue.”
The region’s traditional strengths in manufacturing and engineering are also being harnessed as Mr O’Callaghan explained.
“With a strong tradition of manufacturing and engineering (e.g. J&J Vision Care, Teleflex, Rusal Aughinish, Kostal), IDA Ireland have more recently strategically attracted new companies from a diverse range of sectors; Fazzi Healthcare – Medical Coding, Glass Lewis – Proxy Voting, Casa Systems – Ultra Broadband Solutions, in order to broaden the requirement for certain skills. With Janssen J&J, Becton Dickenson and WP Engine all investing in Limerick as a location for research & development across Med Tech and Software Development, there are opportunities for Limerick to build on these recent successes as a location for ‘European Centre’s of Excellence’.”
The partnership approach has been cited as a key reason in getting investments over the line for Limerick and this remains a critically important selling point.
“Limerick City and County Council, as a key stakeholder, has played a pivotal role in designing the Limerick city of the future, and I have no doubt once progress here is maintained it will enhance the prospect of IDA Ireland winning further investments," Mr O’Callaghan added.
“Although many challenges remain in competing with international cities for FDI investments – given our relative size and scale – I firmly believe the cohesive and coordinated approach by all stakeholders in Limerick has contributed greatly to our proposition as a great location to do business.
“Actively endeavouring to attract expats and alumni talent back to this region in a strategic approach, is a task Limerick needs to seriously consider in order to demonstrate our ability to support potential employment growth from FDI companies, both prospective and existing. The open door policy which everyone from UL and LIT to Innovate Limerick have demonstrated, is a huge strength versus other locations. Maintaining our cost competitiveness and supporting additional business routes at Shannon Airport can contribute greatly to our future value proposition and potential as a standout FDI location,” he concluded.
Another strength of the Mid West region is the focus of the third level sector on industry.
Dr Orlaith Borthwick, Manager of the Mid West Regional Skills Forum said Limerick is at the the forefront in helping people upskill and reaching out to industry to see what they need.
“Limerick and the wider Mid-West has built a reputation as the national leader in enterprise-led education with initiatives such as Limerick for IT and Limerick for Engineering showcasing what enterprise-education collaborations can achieve. Indeed Limerick is the best example of how enterprise-led customised upskilling programmes, via the Springboard initiative, can produce talent to facilitate business growth in the country.
“Initiatives, like the Dept of Education and Skills backed Regional Skills Forum, where industry and education work together, ensures that existing and future skills needs are not only identified, but met. The historic strength of the Mid-West in delivering talent through agile and flexible education models continues to differentiate the region as an attractive location in which to do business,” she added.
Similar to the figures for job creation in IDA client companies, the Mid West recorded the highest number of Enterprise Ireland job creations in 2016 (up 6 percent on the previous year).
The need for skills will also be a priority for the Mid-West Action Plan for Jobs which has ambitious targets of creating an additional 23,000 jobs across the region by 2020. The plan identifies a number of sectoral opportunities for growth across the region – working with agencies such as IDA and EI, the three local authorities across the Mid-West are soon to announce the appointment of a programme manager to drive initiatives which will deliver regional economic growth.
These ‘step-change’ projects have the potential to deliver exciting opportunities for the region and are no doubt something which we’re going to hear more about throughout 2017.