IN a week where Limerick city centre celebrated its biggest jobs boost in a generation, there is confidence another central site could be home to 250 more positions.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said there was “an awful lot of confidence” that the Hanging Gardens site at Henry Street could employ 250 people once it is redeveloped and completed.
On-demand car service provider Uber this week unveiled plans to create 300 jobs on Thomas Street in the city centre.
The €4m investment - which will see half of these staff on site in the next year - saw Limerick beat off competition from other cities to secure offices which will serve Uber’s customers in English speaking countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Uber will take over the upper floors of the Thomas Street centre, with a number of shops to be located on the ground floor including Starbucks Coffee, it is understood.
Mr Noonan said: “Where Uber are going in, they are occupying three floors, but the ground floor is being taken by Starbucks When they come, it is usually an endorsement the city has arrived as a ‘modern city’”.
The Hanging Gardens site is in the final stages of being acquired by the council.
On this, he said: “The council, I understand, would expect there would be a contractor on site either in December or January, and once that is developed, it will be office accommodation for modern industry. There are at least three industries that have expressed interest. Nothing is finalised, but there is an awful lot of confidence that it will be the location for another 250 jobs or so when it is fully developed.”
Chamber chief executive Dr James Ring said: “The big thing is we will have 300 coming too the centre every day working, shopping, eating, socialising, and that is going to bring in a great buzz to the city centre. There will be a huge knock on effect.”
The San Francisco-based company has signed a ten year lease to take over the upper floors of the glass building at the junction of Thomas Street and Catherine Street, and is to create 300 new jobs - with half in place by the close of 2015.
Recruitment is already under way for the first 50 jobs which will include management and process engineering roles.
Uber is a technology platform which allows drivers to offer journeys in their cars using a smartphone app.
Already used in 329 cities in 59 countries across the world, the centre of excellence the company opens in Limerick will service English-speaking countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Computing and technology graduates are being sought, the company said.
Kieran Harte, Ireland’s manager for Uber said Limerick won the bid “hands down”.
“The team we worked with down in Limerick, headed up by Conn Murray were fantastic in not only showing us the benefits of what Limerick is like for a business like ours, and showing us technology businesses, which have just started up there, but we also share their aspirations for what we are hoping to do in Limerick over the next few years,” he said, “It was a vision we really loved”.
Mr Harte says Uber has “pretty aggressive” growth targets for Ireland, confirming they are already recruiting for the first 50 new jobs in Thomas Street.
In a very short space of time, Uber will become one of Limerick city centre’s biggest employers.
The Limerick Business Association chairperson Helen O’Donnell has long said before new cafes and shops can open in the city centre, there would need to be an increase in the numbers of staff based in the centre.
Three hundred staff would appear to fit the bill.
She said: “This is what we have looked for a long time. I hope this is the beginning of a number of announcements across the city. We have so many places which can take jobs. So it is really exciting jobs are going in there, and it is a huge boost to the cafes in the area.”