The construction of an advance factory in Butlersland industrial estate could bring over 700 jobs to New Ross.
Speaking at the New Ross municipal council meeting at County Hall, economic director of services Tony Larkin said the development by PJ O'Farrell and Eamonn and Liam Wall will provide a facility the likes of which are much sought after within the region.
Mr Larkin said: 'We have been working for three or four years trying to get a factory built in the business park in New Ross. The council owns land behind Integer and we went to public procurement in 2018 trying to get a developer to work with us.'
After some false dawns, discussions began with FarWall. He said the council had suggested a site on the left hand side of the business park, but the developers preferred the site behind Integer. The council is selling eight acres to FarWall. 'It's currently an unfinished building site. They are going to work with us on getting planning permission for two factories, one of no less than 35,000 sq ft and the other for 20,000 sq ft. We see 35,000 as the ideal size to attract an IDA client company.'
Mr Larkin said once the factory is built it will be designed in such a way that it can be expanded by 20,000 sq ft if required.
'It ticks all the boxes for us. We will be liaising with the IDA who have been asking for a unit like this at least five times over recent months but we didn't have anything to offer.'
Mr Larkin said due to Covid-19 some uncertainty and unpredictability remains surrounding investment by companies, before adding that he is confident the factory will be occupied once it is built.
'Realistically these buildings are very scarce in the country and there is a steady pipeline of interest in them. I am very hopeful if we have a building ready to go, I am confident the job numbers could be in the 700s. Once these companies get established in Wexford they tend to grow their employee numbers.'
He said an Enniscorthy company is increasing its numbers from around 100 to up to 600 employees, adding that this has been a model adopted by many companies driving into Co Wexford over recent years.
'In comparison to the much higher costs in Dublin, it's much cheaper here. The developers will build it at their own expense and we will rent it at a lower than market rent over the space of a number of years. It's a pretty good deal and the level of risk is limited and the potential gain here is very high.'
He said if several hundred jobs are created in New Ross it will have a big spin-off for the local economy.
Outlining the time-line for the construction of the factory, Mr Larkin said it will be in for Part VIII planning in July or August, adding that an architect is designing the building. The local authority will provide financial support for the larger factory only. 'We are not subsidising the second factory; that will come directly from themselves.'
Construction will begin early next year, he said. 'Once it starts we will be marketing it like crazy. We have flagged it with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. We will be keeping them informed and there will be an intense marketing effort.'
Mr Larkin said there will be no financial implications for the council this year and only a limited obligation next year. 'The first full year (of paying rent) will be 2022.'
Cllr Michael Sheehan thanked Mr Larkin and his team and the developers for investing millions in New Ross.
The county council chairman said the IDA has indicated it is looking for factory buildings that are nine metres high, asking if the advance factory can be built to that specification. He said there are two other sites in Butlersland already have planning for advance factories. 'If the interest is so high in Ireland there is a possibility of a third factory.'
He called on Mr Larkin to write to Fran McFadden of Bord Gáis to alert him about the advance factory, saying it will add to the case for gas to be piped into New Ross from Great Island.
Mr Larkin said caution is needed regarding the nine metre high factory idea, adding that a building of that size is only suitable for certain companies and is hard to come by. 'There was a request for a nine metre high building from the IDA. I did pitch the advance factory.'
He said such a facility could potentially be accommodated up to a height of ten metres in the smaller of the two factories being proposed.
'If the IDA interest is real there is plenty of time. I haven't heard from the IDA since.'
He said having gas would be a great selling point, as it could attract heavy energy use companies.
Cllr Pat Barden said the factory will be a major boost to New Ross town and district. He asked what kind of companies had expressed an interest in coming to Co Wexford but Mr Larkin said that was confidential information. Responding to a suggestion from Cllr Barden that a pharma company might be a good fit, Mr Larkin said they tend to go to Cork and Dublin, before adding that Co Wexford would be capable of handling such a facility. He said pharma companies are great because they spend a lot on their plants and are consequently less likely to relocate them. 'The most likely company would be something like Integer, a manufacturer but not in a heavy industrial way.'
Cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming said in his work as an auctioneer he sold a 45,000 sq ft factory, adding that he sees no reason why there wouldn't be interest in the factory. 'Maybe we could do the same for another factory,' he said, adding that gas would be a great addition to the town. Mr Larkin agreed, saying he has mentioned this to FarWall.
Cllr Michael Whelan praised Mr Larkin and his team for their work in securing the deal, while Cllr Anthony Connick said: 'Jobs are always welcome. It's a fine site and Tony has done great work on it from the very start.'
New Ross Standard