IDA boss says Limerick ‘is enjoying a new wave of confidence’

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Chamber president Cathal Treacy, Donal Creaton, Holmes OMalley Sexton Solicitors, with Liam Woulfe, the managing director of Grassland Agro, getting their Best Large Business award prize. Picture: Liam Burke/Press22
LIMERICK and the surrounding area is enjoying a “wave of new confidence”, the head of IDA Ireland has said.

LIMERICK and the surrounding area is enjoying a “wave of new confidence”, the head of IDA Ireland has said.

And Limerick is a city “on the cusp of greatness”, Chamber president Cathal Treacy said.

Martin Shanahan, the chief executive of the IDA was enthusiastic in his praise for the city and county during his keynote speech at the Limerick Chamber Regional Business Awards.

He said the city can expect further investments in the not too distant future, saying: “I expect the IDA will be able to deliver investment into this region in the coming months.

“Limerick has an extremely strong story to tell. In the past 12 months, three projects alone have delivered €350m in capital investment: Regeneron, Ethicon, and Analog Devices. These have been complemented by a number of new name investments – Optel Vision and Viagogo to name two,” he said.

The reason, Mr Shanahan said, Limerick is on the rise is the fact the various agencies are working together. In particular, he referenced his own organisation, the Chamber, the council, and the city’s three third-level institutions.

The IDA boss – who hails from North Kerry – has achieved some level of fame beyond business circles for a clip which went viral on the internet.

In it, he was asked why Ireland uses the euro currency. The presenter also appeared confused as to why Ireland is no longer in UK.

To a rapturous cheer, Mr Shanahan said: “When I address local meetings now, or anyone, I feel the need to clarify: we use the euro in Ireland, and that we are separate to the UK. But I can see you are a sophisticated audience, so I will get on with it!”

Meanwhile, there were celebrations for Dock Road agricultural firm Grassland Agro, which scooped the title of 2014 Company of the Year at the prestigious awards, for which the Limerick Leader is media partner.

Grassland Agro produces and sells a range of conventional commodity fertilisers as well as speciality fertiliser and soil conditioning products.

Ardagh man Liam Woulfe, managing director, said the firm is planning to create around 15 new jobs in 2015. At present, the company employs 180 people, around 35 of whom are in Limerick.

“It is a fantastic honour to win it. I really appreciate it. It is a great accolade to achieve on behalf of my staff who are so good and so attentive, and on behalf of Marguerite on my family who have put up with a lot, and are always so supportive,” Mr Woulfe said.

Asked what he feels made his company stand out, the businessman said he believed it was the way the firm remained vibrant in the face of caps and quotas.

“Our market decreased by about 30%, and it meant we had to maintain our efficiencies when others were going out of business. We did that,” he said. “We have a wide range of products, and a continuous flow of new ideas coming into the system. We have a foundation for a very vibrant system. I think this probably influenced the judges.”

Grassland Agro, he added, is not seeking new acquisitions: “We have no new requirement to buy any new business in order to develop. We have more than enough capacity to grow from within. I am delighted, and this will mean we will add another 10 to 15 jobs in the next 12 months.”

President Treacy said Limerick is being “transformed” and “revitalised”. “Positivity is palpable. The next phase of our journey to prosperity is about to embark. But we can do more work to make Limerick the leading European city of its size: an attractive place to do business, a competitive investment location with strong offering in retail, business, arts, culture and leisure activities.”

Mr Treacy called on all the agencies to work together to ensure Limerick continues its upward curve. “A prosperous, strong region depends on us working together and each doing our part. Government must do its part to provide the right conditions and targeted investments. Academia must continue to focus on commercialising research and developing curricula that supports productivity and innovation. Industry must step up to the plate as they have the potential to compete and win globally,” he said.