MAJOR US drug maker Regeneron's plans for a state-of-the-art factory will create 900 jobs in a region where unemployment outstrips the national average.
Limerick was celebrating unveiling of the plans for a facility that will create 300 highly-skilled roles as well as 600 construction jobs.
Regeneron, one of the fastest growing drug makers of its kind in the US, will invest $300m (€270m) into developing the site at Raheen Business Park. It was previously owned by Dell but has been vacant since 2009.
The production facility will produce a range of drugs or drug components, including cancer treatments, heart disease medicines and eye drugs.
"It's great news for Limerick and the local economy" said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who will meet with senior executives from the company in New York in January.
The 2011 Limerick census gauged the city's unemployment rate at 29pc, in comparison to 19pc in Dublin, with the highest levels of youth unemployment in the country.
More recent figures estimate the Mid-West region's unemployment rate at 14.9pc, but that calculation includes North Tipperary and Clare.
"It's absolutely fantastic news," said Maria Kelly, chief executive of Limerick Chamber of Commerce.
"Anyone living in the west will tell you that job-creation is very top-heavy and favours Dublin; we have to wait for things to filter through. This is a huge boost."
Tony Pembroke, a professor of industrial biochemistry at University of Limerick, said the announcement was particularly welcome because biotechnology plants take a long time to get approval for -- and are not easily moved.
"This is not the kind of factory that can be easily moved to a low-cost country if somewhere else suddenly looks more competitive" he said.
"To sell any drugs it produces into the US, the facility and its staff will require approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. The plant itself must be built in a certain way, to prevent build-ups of bacteria. Even the quality of the water is important. So the decision to set up in Limerick was not taken lightly -- this is a very long-term commitment."