HOPES that a call centre for the new state company Irish Water would bring 400 jobs to the EMF 3 building vacated by Dell at Raheen have been dashed.
The Limerick Leader understands that Limerick has lost out in the still ongoing bidding process. The huge setback comes two months after Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced at a Limerick Chamber dinner that the 400 jobs were “at the final stages of negotiation”.
In April, the Government announced the introduction of domestic water charges under the aegis of new body to established as an independent State-owned company within the Bord Gáis group.
The Kerry-based service provider Fexco had tendered for the call centre project.
It identified Limerick as its location because of the requirement that the jobs be based close to a significant urban population, due to the high number of positions to be filled.
Fexco worked closely with senior local authority executives and other interested parties determined to win the jobs for Limerick, but it has now lost out in the procurement process. It is understood that two Cork-based companies remain in the race, with one other rival left standing.
Speaking to the Leader over the weekend, Tom Enright, director of Economic Development and Planning with Limerick City and County Councils, echoed the huge disappointment that will now be felt locally.
He added that the Irish Water jobs were never guaranteed for Limerick and that there was always going to be strong competition from other companies and other locations.
However, Mr Noonan’s bullish words at the Chamber dinner had inspired considerable optimism.
“I can tell you it is true ... and it will be a big boost for Limerick,” Mr Noonan said then.
He was unavailable for comment at the weekend. Those in Limerick who have been close to the process over recent weeks have been left to rue that those comments proved unhelpfully premature.
Mr Enright stressed that all has not been lost and that much has been learned by the various parties involved in the bidding process which will help Limerick to position itself as a recognised location for other call centre opportunities which will arise in the future.
Deputy Willie O’Dea said he was very disappointed with the news. “I hope the battle is not over and something can be done,” he said.
“While we have had some good announcements there are also a lot of closures, three jobs here, four there and so on, that don’t make the papers. Limerick is now an unemployment blackspot and something needs to be done.”
Mr Enright said he was encouraged by the level of interest expressed by international companies in establishing their operations in Limerick in recent months.
“I certainly see a marked improvement already this year in the number of companies taking a close look at Limerick as a place to locate in and I am encouraged that 2013 will provide a springboard upon which we can see real improvements in the number of new jobs being created and sustained,” he said.