THE head of Dell computers, Michael Dell, will visit his Limerick plant tomorrow for the first time since the multinational company closed its entire Irish manufacturing operation, leaving 1,900 workers redundant.
However, Dell employees can rest easy, as Mr Dell is expected to address workers on the future plans for the Irish operation of the US company.
In January 2009, the mid-west region was dealt a hammer blow with the announcement that Dell was closing its Limerick-based manufacturing operation in favour of a cheaper workforce in Lodz, Poland.
The move affected many more subsidiary industries and workers who relied heavily, if not entirely, on Dell for business.
Dell remains one of the country's biggest employers, with 2,300 people working at its plants in Cherrywood, Dublin, and Raheen, Limerick. About 1,000 staff work in Limerick in service and support and 1,300 work in direct sales and telephone-support operations.
At one stage before the recession hit, almost 4,500 people were directly employed by Dell.
Mr Dell is expected to visit both plants tomorrow and on Tuesday, and his Limerick-based workforce has been informed that he will address them all shortly after noon tomorrow.
Senior management at the site has been preparing for the visit throughout recent weeks. Landscaping work has been completed on the perimeter grounds, new signs have been erected and new coats of paint have been applied across the workplace.
"He is meeting with senior management beforehand as far as we know. We have all been told to be seated by noon and his address is expected to be over by 1pm," a well-placed source said.
Last June, Dell announced the creation of up to 150 cloud computing jobs across their two Irish plants. Recruitment has begun for software engineers, IT architects, engineers and developers and is expected to last up to two years. Dublin will be home to the company's first cloud research and development centre and the Limerick campus will be base to Dell's first solution centre built globally.
However, the gloom from one of the biggest company lay-offs ever experienced in the State still hangs over Limerick and Mr Dell will not be able to escape this on his first visit to Limerick in a number of years. His address tomorrow will take place in a wide, open-plan space and large black curtains have been erected to hide the view of the old manufacturing site.
"When he is on the podium and looks right, he won't be able to see where the old assembly lines were. They have been completely covered off by the curtains to avoid this," the source said.
Limerick was once regarded as one of Dell's main assembly plants across the globe, but emphasis has since shifted towards servicing and solutions for customers.
This year, the global forecast for personal computer sales has been cut due to economic instability and a consumer shift to tablet devices such as the iPad. Last month, Dell slashed its revenue forecast as an already weak outlook for technology spending this year worsened.