Friday 14 December 2018

IDA expects raft of drug firms to relocate here

IDA boss Martin Shanahan
IDA boss Martin Shanahan

Colm Kelpie

The IDA expects a snowball effect of more Brexit-related jobs in the pharmaceutical sector after a major Northern Ireland company announced it was expanding in the Republic to boost its presence in the EU.

The development - in which pharmaceutical services group Almac will create up to 100 jobs over the next two years in Dundalk - is regarded as the first Brexit jobs win by the State.

It is understood that, having alluded to the fact it wanted to expand its operations globally, a pitch was made to them about enhancing operations in the Republic, which would ensure continued access to the single market.

The State is not actively targeting firms in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Brexit vote, as the market is regarded as too small to devote resources. However, companies that want to set up operations south of the Border to have a foothold in the EU will be welcomed by the Government here.

Almac Group employs almost 3,000 people at its global headquarters in Craigavon, Co Armagh. Although it has a small presence in Athlone, it is opening a new facility in Co Louth as part of a global expansion.

IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan said the development provided the company with certainty of access to the EU in the long term.

"This certainty of access is an increasingly important selling point for Ireland as we look to win business for Ireland," Mr Shanahan said.

A spokesman for the IDA declined to comment when asked how the investment came about, citing commercial sensitivity. But he said further jobs could be won in the pharmaceutical sector by companies keen to ensure they had access to the single market.

It is hoped that the first trickle of Brexit jobs here, in the pharma and banking industries, will lead to a snowball effect as confidence grows in Ireland as a location in which to conduct EU business.

More companies are also expected to sit up and take notice of the island and Ireland's unique position of having a foothold in the EU and the UK.

"Our strongest selling point a lot of the time is reference sell from other companies and especially in areas like pharmaceuticals where companies will watch what their competitors are doing closely. When one company does something, the others will tend to follow," the spokesman said.

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said Ireland's expertise in the pharma sector was unrivalled.

"This is a very exciting project for Dundalk and builds on the strong cluster of multinational companies who have very successfully located in that town in recent years and who have found it a great base from which to promote their sales into other EU member states," he said.

Asked whether the IDA was interested in attracting Northern Ireland firms to set up operations in the Republic in the wake of Brexit, an agency spokesman said: "Northern Ireland isn't a source market from IDA's perspective. However, IDA Ireland is in the business of winning mobile investment and, if people are making investment decisions, we will be there to articulate Ireland's proposition, which is extremely strong in the context of Brexit.

Almac Group employs 71 at a facility in Athlone, Arran Chemicals, which it bought in 2015 and had an existing relationship with the IDA that predates yesterday's announcement.

Almac Group chief executive Alan Armstrong said the 100 jobs would be rolled out within the first two years.

Irish Independent

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