THE Minister for Finance has promised he will do ‘anything he can’ to help bring 300 jobs to Limerick at Dell’s former manufacturing plant in Raheen.
The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that the American biopharmaceutical firm Regeneron is preparing to invest several hundred million in Limerick and create hundreds of jobs in a massive boost for the Mid-West.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader last night, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said it would be “premature to comment” on the talks between Dell and Regeneron, which are believed to be at an advanced stage and are reaching a ‘positive conclusion’.
“It’s not over the line yet. None of us want to make a premature comment in case it would inhibit it in any way. I hope it’s going to be very successful. It’s a very big project and if we get it, it will be very important for Limerick. All negotiations are going on, and are going well, but it’s not over the line yet. I’ll do anything I can to help it come to Limerick,” he said.
The minister said he was not aware of any other imminent job announcements for Limerick, but it’s understood the IDA has been taking a leading role in seeking to attract a number of potential employers to the huge site on the edges of the city.
Regeneron, a company valued at $26bn (€19.7bn) on the Nasdaq, said in a statement that it has reached a preliminary agreement with Dell to acquire a 400,000 square foot facility in Limerick.
“Subject to definitive agreements and permitting, Regeneron intends to renovate the facility to accommodate and support growth,” he added.
Headquartered in New York state, Regeneron invents, develops and makes medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions including cancer, eye diseases and asthma.
It is understood that at least 300 jobs would be set up initially if the plans proceed, and could increase in the years following its established.
Labour minister Jan O’Sullivan said the statement released by the company is “very good news for Limerick, and is strong evidence that it will deliver.
“The IDA have been working very hard to get a company into that facility because it’s such a valuable facility for opportunities for jobs. I would have been aware of ongoing discussions to have that site occupied, and it would be extremely welcome news because we need that jobs boost in Limerick and the mid-west. We always felt that available site has great potential, but I’m not aware of any visit [to Limerick] from the Minister for Jobs [Richard Bruton] at this point in time,” she told this newspaper.
Figures released from the Central Statistics Office this month show there were more than 19,000 people out of work in the county, with the majority - 13,434 in the city.
Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins said it would be “great news for Limerick if it comes true”, and would help address the devastation caused when Dell pulled 1,900 manufacturing jobs out of Limerick four years ago to move to a lower cost base in Lodz, Poland. Its withdrawal from the region also had a major knock-on effect for other local businesses, but the company still employs 1,100 in Limerick.
It had earlier been hoped that Irish Water would create 400 jobs in the same location, but the company announced this May that the jobs will be created in Cork in the coming years.
Deputy Collins said there was “a lot of disappointment when the Irish Water jobs didn’t materialise” and believes the new local authority, to be established next year, should acquire such major locations for enterprise and negotiate fair rents to attract new employers to the region.
He pointed out that the City Council had also bought the Opera Centre site for €15m to help develop and create employment in the Patrick Street area of the city, which has become an employment wasteland after it was abandoned by developers since the Celtic Tiger era.
“We need to take lessons from Irish Water and PayPal, and have these premises in our own ownership. There’s a huge opportunity there,” he told this newspaper.
There were hopes that PayPal would create 1,000 jobs in Limerick last year, but sources later said that Limerick was ‘never in the running’ for this contract, which was awarded to Dundalk.
Regeneron was founded in 1988, and was floated on the Nasqaq stock market in 1991. Last year it was voted the world’s number one biopharmaceutical employer in a Science Magazine survey and Biotech Company of the Year by Scrip Intelligence.