A new milk processing plant could give a huge boost to the south-east of the country creating over 2,000 jobs in spin-off industries.
Glanbia, which produces leading household brands such as Avonmore milk and Kilmeaden cheese, confirmed plans to build a €150m plant at Belview Port on the Kilkenny-Waterford border.
Enterprise Ireland, the state agency which supports Irish companies, said it would back Glanbia's plans. The company is the biggest milk producer in the country.
Although the plant will only employ 76 people when it opens in two years' time, both the Government and the company claim it could spur about 1,000 extra farm jobs and another 600 local jobs as a knock-on effect of its construction.
There will also be 450 construction roles as the factory is built.
Glanbia said the plant will contribute around €400m a year to the local economy.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the plan was a "massive vote of confidence in Ireland and our agri-food sector".
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney hailed the news as "the biggest jobs announcement" of the year.
He also rejected concerns that the mooted 1,600 jobs may not end up being created.
"Anyone who questions that does not understand the agriculture sector. These numbers are based on reliable economic models and they are conservative figures.
"These are real, Irish jobs. They cannot be moved overseas," he claimed.
Glanbia Ingredients Ireland head Jim Bergin, who will run the plant, said the move was "a significant, strategic development for our business", while Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton claimed the announcement was of "major strategic significance".
Glanbia is building the plant to deal with a huge increase in the amount of milk its suppliers will produce when EU caps on milk production are removed in 2015.
The EU has restricted how much milk farmers can produce for more than 30 years. When those quotas are dropped in two years' time, the farmers that supply milk to Glanbia are expected increase their production by more than 50pc.
Almost all of the milk that will be processed at the new plant will be exported to Asia, Africa and South America. Most of it will be sold as dry milk powder which can be used for infant milk formula, cheese and nutritional products.