Tuesday 22 January 2019

IDA in talks to save Fullwood Packo facility

Bill Browne

The head of the IDA has said the State body is engaging with management at Fullwood Packo in a bid to find an alternative to the closure of its Kanturk operation.

In July of this year the company announced that it was to close its Ballymacquirke facility, which has been designing and manufacturing milking machines and cooling tanks since the 1970's, with the loss of 24 jobs putting 'the majority of employees at risk of redundancy'. 

At the time The Corkman reported the company had said that in order to make the Kanturk plant a fully capable facility, instead of just another assembly facility, another €2 million would need to be invested in machines for laser cutting, laser welding and robot welding.

"The investment to remain operating is not a viable option and it is not sustainable for Packo Blackwater Ltd to continue trading with the current operating model in Ireland," said the company. 

In a circular to employees the company said that it planned to keep operating in Ireland on a sales basis only with their affiliated company, Packo Fullwood Farm Services Ltd, and move assembly of all products back to Belgium.  At the time the news was greeted with shock locally, with local county councillors suspending standing orders at their monthly Kanturk/Mallow municipal meeting to discuss the issue. 

The councillors unanimously agreed to a proposal by Cllr Bernard Moynihan (FF) that the authority write to the heads of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland on the issue. 

In his reply, circulated to councillors at their October meetings, IDA chief executive officer Martin Shanahan said the body was 'in close contact' with management at Packo who 'are looking at alternatives'.

'They are looking at operational efficiencies and capital re-investment as alternatives to a hard closure at the company. Should this be agreed, implementation of these efficiencies will need to take place immediately,' wrote Mr Shanahan. 'IDA will continue to engage with the company on this matter.' 

Cllr John Paul O'Shea (FG) said he was hopeful the ongoing negotiations would result in a positive outcome and that a deal could be worked out that would help to keep the facility fully operational. 

"Mr Shanahan's comments offer a glimmer of hope to employees. The loss of 24 jobs would be a huge blow to this rural community and I would urge all stakeholders to work together to come up with a plan that would save these jobs and ensure the Kanturk facility does not close," he said. 

The Corkman attempted to contact Fullwood Packo for comment but a spokesperson was unavailable at time of going to press.