How we beat off British and Dutch competition to secure 1,300 new jobs in €1.25bn coup
A HIGH-LEVEL meeting between senior ministers and executives from the country's flagship food company was key to a €1.25bn jobs coup.
The Government had to fight off competition from Britain and mainland Europe to secure the deal with the Kerry Group, which will create 1,300 jobs over the next four years. A further 1,300 jobs are expected in employment spin-offs.
Sources have described how the deal will be worth €1.25bn in wages alone over the next decade.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said it was one of the biggest jobs announcements since the recession first hit.
The massive boost was announced by the Kerry Group, which is developing a global technology and innovation centre specialising in food research in Naas, Co Kildare.
The Irish Independent has learned that a May meeting in Government Buildings, called by Mr Bruton, was one of the main factors in sealing the deal.
It was attended by Mr Bruton, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, senior civil servants and Kerry executives, who were told that the Government would provide "every bell and whistle" to secure the much-needed jobs boost.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was not there but he sent the country's senior civil servant, Martin Fraser, secretary-general to the Government, to represent him.
Jobs agency Enterprise Ireland, which worked on the deal, usually spends around €12,000 per job to secure employment.
But it is understood to have cost more than this for the Kerry jobs, since they are high-end, well-paid positions.
Enterprise Ireland set up a working group to make sure the jobs were landed, beating off strong competition from London and Amsterdam, where Kerry Group already has an existing site.
Amsterdam was initially thought to be favourite, but the ministers and Enterprise Ireland worked over the summer to get what sources described as "a must-win project" of "world standing".
Mr Coveney said it was a "once-in-a-decade" announcement, while Mr Bruton said it was "as good as it gets".
Mr Kenny said the new centre would "act as an international magnet for our country" and that it was "a message of confidence for our people".
The jobs coup was credited to the Government's policy of targeting specific sectors of the economy that it thinks will be "winners" in the coming years. It pinpointed the agri-food sector and now has medical life sciences, medical devices and green energy in its sights.
Executives in the Kerry Group said a major factor in their decision to choose Ireland was because they believe "the worst is behind us" as a country.
The new facility will be involved in research and "product innovation", according to Stan McCarthy, chief executive of the Kerry Group.
Some 800 jobs will be created by 2015, with a further 160 coming when the plant is fully operational the year after. An estimated 400 building jobs are expected.
Preparatory work is already under way and it is hoped that construction will begin on the site next year.
The €100m cost of building the facility will be met by the Kerry Group, although the State will provide grants in areas like research and development.
Mr McCarthy said the company would be looking for science graduates, such as food scientists and food technologists, as well as people with analytical qualifications.
"I think the economy has stabilised," he said. "The competency that we see coming out of the Irish university system makes it easier for us to be able to make a decision on this. I think the worst is behind us."
Kerry Group said it examined four sites in Ireland, all in the Dublin region, as well as four in the UK within the Heathrow Airport area, as well as Amsterdam.
NAMA sold the Naas site to Kerry Group and it is likely to have cost around €2.5m based on its current valuation.
Kerry Group refused to disclose how much was paid for the Millennium Park site. A spokesman said the cost was "more favourable" than the other locations examined.
"That was a factor but it wasn't the compelling reason by any means," he said.