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Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

Whitemill Industrial Estate

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Whitemill Industrial Estate

wexfordpeople

A deserted lot in an industrial estate must be one of the bleakest places on earth… A stroll around Whitemill in Wexford town offers plenty of examples of prosperity. The handiest indicators of enterprise are the cars parked outside the various premises. On any week day, the staff at the likes of Sulzer and Snaptite have driven here to work in their scores. The assembled vehicles present a heart-gladdening sight in front of well kept buildings.

Such bustle is no more than a stone's throw from the ruined remnant of former glory which is the old Sola Lenses plant. Once the biggest employer in Wexford, the vast Sola complex now stands largely deserted.

Last Wednesday morning, just half a dozen cars are pulled up where once there used to be hundreds. Under the banner of Carl Zeiss, the enterprise still supports a skeleton staff, engaged in administrative work.

But most of the factory space which used to produce vision lenses for the world is long abandoned. Reeds sprout up through the tarmac beside buildings which present a drab glumness to the world.

Estate agent Colum Murphy of Kehoe and Associates admits that he has 'availability' at Sola. He does a quick tot and reckons that he has no less 80,000 square feet of industrial availability, spread over nine acres of Whitemill.

The 80,000 square feet would suffice for 28 standard size tennis courts - but no one is playing.

The complex features HBA clean rooms capable of excluding microscopic particles of dust. To date, the estate agents have yet to find a taker interested in such hardware.

Back in 2013, Wexford County Council drew up a map of the industrial estate. The map showed the occupied buildings in grey, with their vacant counterparts in orange. And the 17 acres of green field site were, naturally, coloured green.

Remarkably little change has taken place since 2013. Most of the orange remains redundant and most of the grey is, thank goodness, still occupied. The green is left stubbornly green, with splashes of yellow on the ground provided by gorse bushes.

Colum Murphy insists that the Wexford economy is doing quite well in general. However, the calls he receives are usually from clients more interested in broadband than vast square footage.

He has found homes elsewhere for the likes of DoneDeal, Scurry and Sonru in the recent past. They are all job spinners but not ventures which normally locate in a traditional industrial estate such as Whitemill.

The result is a shortage of office space around Wexford, while the hulk of the Sola Lenses campus lies echoing and idle.

Other beached whales left behind by the Celtic boom include the former HQ of Neville's builders and the shell of Kelly's, where once it was possible to buy a bath for €4,000. A few metres away, the grey (occupied) of Acorn fashions has slipped into orange (vacant), succumbing to a dip in demand for uniforms.

At the other end of the road, the Kehoe and Associates 'sale or rent' board is up on what was once the base of long gone Norcool/Frigoglass refrigerators. Colum Murphy reports that the premises is actually occupied by Sulzer as it expands. Sulzer, which came to town as ABS Pumps, is one of the sustained success stories in the changing face of Whitemill.

Another upbeat tale is provided by Tekpak which took over the building formerly occupied by Morrissey Engineering. A ghostly reminder of the Morrissey heritage is provided by the big M's on the gates but Tekpak have made part of this place their own.

Imelda Kehoe is a director of the firm which makes robots for the automated packaging lines of pharmaceutical manufacturers and the likes.The robots are destined for factories in Britain, Switzerland, Germany and Hungary.

So it suits to have the port of Rosslare on the doorstep. Otherwise, Imelda offers another very solid, concrete reason for settling here: 'The floor is superb.' She adds that they have had no problem hiring the necessary expertise and her only complaint is that the estate is not well maintained.

Despite this caveat, Tekpak employment on this sturdy shop floor have risen over seven years in Whitemill from three to 20 workers.

However, they are still a long way off filling all of the cavernous Morrissey's building which remains unmoved on the IDA books.

There are rumours that the authority may be lining some business up for the locality.

The gossip is fuelled by the presence of diggers on the two and a half acre field next to Morrissey/Tekpak.

We live in hope.


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