CARLOW modular building firm Cental plans to double its workforce to 140 after selling an equity stake to the Ardmac construction company.
Their partnership means Cental will become a production site for modular buildings designed both by Ardmac and by Ardmac's new US partner, Germfree Laboratories, for sale across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Ardmac - based in Swords, Co Dublin, and employing more than 300 people - said it wanted to focus its production of modular buildings in Cental's dedicated production facility in Carlow.
Neither firm would disclose the exact size of the stake or amount paid. As part of the deal, Ardmac CEO Ronan Quinn and chief financial officer Ian Madden will join Cental's board.
Cental designs and delivers modular buildings primarily to the data centre, utilities and telecoms industries. Its clients include Siemens, ESB Networks, industrial tech firm ABB, construction consultants DPS and FG Wilson. It generated 2019 turnover of €20m.
"This investment in Cental provides Ardmac with a reputable specialist partner, additional manufacturing capacity and a further foothold in the market for off-site modular construction," Mr Quinn said.
"In Cental, we now have that crucial manufacturing fabrication infrastructure to provide the expertise and capacity required to produce complex, high-value projects off site and then deliver them to our customer locations."
Cental chief executive Brian McGuire said their "strategic partnership" made sense because they share areas of expertise and customers and also have developed complementary areas of expertise.
"Our combined engineering and management teams will further enhance our already ambitious growth strategy," Mr McGuire said.
Carlow will become the site for building prefabricated, 'clean rooms' and biosafety labs already being produced in the US by Florida-based Germfree. Cental's output now will be distributed under both the Ardmac and Germfree brand names.
Mr Quinn foresees that construction will become increasingly reliant on prefabricated structures built off site "in a factory complete with all internal finishes", because this is much more time-efficient than doing work on site in stages.
"The construction ecosystem of the future will be a more standardised, consolidated and integrated construction process where modular assemblies and entire modular buildings will be much more common," he said.
"Our transactions with Germfree and Cental position us to be a significant provider of such prefabricated solutions for life science and advanced manufacturing applications."
He said building Ardmac's prefab skills would "reduce our overseas contracting risk considerably" because most work would happen in Carlow.
Ardmac reported 2019 turnover of €162m. It has branch offices in Cork, Brussels, Manchester and Craigavon, Northern Ireland.