The IDA is facing “fierce competition” to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the West of Ireland – but the presence of global giants here acts as a top reference for Galway.
And with hundreds of jobs created by IDA-supported companies in Galway during 2017, the number of site visits here by potential investors is on the rise.
Government figures show there were a total of 43 IDA-sponsored site visits to County Galway up to the end of September 2017 (the most up-to-date figure available), which is up from 42 for all of 2016 and 41 for all of 2015.
The only county with more site visits was Dublin (247 up to the end of September 2017), while Cork had 38 and Westmeath 34.
IDA Ireland’s Head of Regional Development, Anne-Marie Tierney-Le Roux told the Connacht Tribune that while the agency has had a good success rate in attracting multinationals, it has been an extremely competitive process.
“Every investment for Galway and the West region is hard won and the agency competes with other European and global locations as well as other locations within Ireland.
“Competition is fierce, but we will continue to work hard to win any and all potential investment for Galway and the West.
“Galway has proven itself to be an excellent location for investment, as evidenced by the number of global companies of international repute that we have here. Our value proposition is strong, we have demonstrated that we can meet their needs; we have the skilled workers, connectivity, the required level of infrastructure, services and third-level institutes they look for, coupled with a robust and supportive business culture and we will leverage that to the fullest extent.
“Working with established companies to help them develop and grow jobs is an important focus for us and in 2017, we saw SAP and Shopify do just that, adding 250 new jobs between them.
“It’s important to note too that the move to new premises demonstrates considerable commitment by companies to Galway and the West region, as in the case of Wood Group and MetLife.
“We should also remember the companies in Galway and the West region who have great longevity, and the benefit to the local economy that has accrued from their long presence here.
“Companies like Penn Engineering who established operations in Galway 16 years ago and this year celebrated the company’s 75th anniversary with a substantial facility expansion,” said Ms Tierney-Le Roux.
Looking to the coming year, the IDA’s Acting Regional Business Development Manager for the West region, Emma Goode, said the outlook is very positive.
“There is a lot to be optimistic about. We have a vibrant technology hub here. Our Med Tech sector is strong. The presence of global companies in these spaces here in Galway acts as an excellent reference seller for further investment.
“Site visits by potential investors are up on 2016. Another plus is the new Advance Technology Building for Galway which is being constructed as part of IDA’s property investment programme for the West Region.
“Construction is underway and the property is being marketed by IDA as a turn-key solution for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We have had enquiries about it already,” she said.
That development in Parkmore East will see 45,000 square foot of office space – for up to 300 workers – completed by the middle of 2018 by the IDA along with Singapore investment fund Fine Grain Properties.
Galway’s reputation as an excellent location for companies to establish operations was further enhanced by a number of job announcements in 2017, the IDA officials said.
Announcements were made by two established companies; global software company SAP in May (150 new jobs) and commerce platform company Shopify in July (100 jobs) and new Italian company Antares Vision in December (53 jobs).
“Other activity during 2017 included Wood Group’s official launch of its new Data Analytics Centre of Excellence with the company planning to grow the data analytics team to ten people by year end and with the intention of developing further employment opportunities this coming year.
“In May, OpenJaw Technologies, the travel software company, announced 50 jobs between operations in Galway and Dublin.
“In September Penn Engineering officially opened an 80,000 sq ft facility. The expansion brings the total footprint of Penn Engineering operations in Galway to in excess of 200,000 sq ft The company employs 200 people.
“Another company which opened new premises in Galway in 2017 was MetLife. The official opening of their new Global Technology Campus in Galway took place in November.
“With plans to employ approximately 200 skilled IT professionals when at full capacity, the new campus represents a major investment in the digital initiatives that will help MetLife transform its customers’ experience around the globe,” said Ms Goode.
Galway currently has 68 IDA Ireland client companies, providing employment to 16,851 people.
Adults and young pupils collaborate on children’s book now in the shops
A new book – a collaborative collection of stories and poems written by the Oughterard Writers Group and the children from the local primary school – was officially launched in style last week.
Tell me a Story was officially launched at Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona, Oughterard, by the principal, Micheál O’Domhnaill – to the delight of the children, parents, friends and writers in attendance and those watching live on zoom.
by Jess Walsh and Barbara Dunne
Tell Me a Story is a collaboration between the Oughterard Writers Group and the children of last year’s 4th class from Scoil Chuimín agus Catríona. It had its genesis in January when the writers applied to Galway County Council for funding for the story book.
The book is the culmination of several months’ work, where stories and poems written by the writers, were sent to the children.
The group was unable to meet the children in person, due to Covid restrictions, but met them several times on Zoom, facilitated by Pete Mullineaux, and James O’Donnell, their teacher. And after months of hard work by the children, their handwritten work and illustrations were then passed back to the writers for design and completion.
Each story in the book tells a different tale. The children responded to the story they liked best, and the book is interspersed with wonderful drawings from the children, with new story endings and poems, along with some of the children’s own handwriting.
It was a special night for all to finally meet in person at the official launch.
The children were presented with their contributor copy by the writer of the piece they worked on, and guests were treated to some selected readings from the book by the children themselves.
The evening was rounded off by Muinteoir J O Donnell reading his poem, Last Night’s Wind from the book, and it was a very fitting ending to a wonderful evening.
The book costs €10 (with 50% of profits being donated Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona) and can be bought online from Kenny’s and Charlie Byrne’s bookshops in Galway, and from Moycullen Bookshop and shops in Oughterard.
Landowners see red at poor greenway dialogue
A decision on the route chosen for the greenway between Athlone and Galway City is expected to be announced before Christmas – despite the vehement opposition of a group of landowners.
Opponents staged another protest outside County Hall last Monday to up the pressure on councillors to continue to voice disquiet over the way the project is being pursued by Galway County Council and RPS consultants.
Jean Molloy from Stoney Island outside Portumna, a member of the East Galway Action Group, said there was a complete lack of respect by the project team for the major stakeholders who had the most to lose – those whose land would be taken by the greenway.
Her family, who run a small farm on the land earmarked for the route, had received two letters from the team and not a single phone call over their concerns. She had attended public meetings to outline their preferred route but believes the consultants are not listening.
“We’re expected to give up everything but yet we don’t see a real benefit in the way the route is going as it doesn’t connect villages or neighbours, our kids can’t use it to cycle to school,” she insisted.
“The preferred route is in remote areas off-road, which may suit tourists a few times a year but won’t be safe for us. Why can’t they go along the road, as long as it’s segregated? Yet, we’re expected to give up our livelihoods, our privacy, our security.”
The campaigners allege the process has been flawed from the start.
They accuse those driving the project of “underhanded” tactics and adopting a “divide and conquer approach” and say consultants have failed to engage with every landowner and resident affected in the route corridor. They allege the team is refusing to meeting landowners in groups.
“They have told landowners that a final route is to be released before Christmas, but this is just not feasible. It’s important that the general public is made aware of how the individuals at the centre of the proposed cycleway are being treated.”
Director of service in the infrastructure and operations unit of Galway County Council, Derek Pender, has refuted claims of intimidation and a lack of engagement.
Last September he insisted they had undertaken well over 1,500 face-to-face or phone call consultations with 350 potentially impacted private landowners over 15 months.
The preferred route starts near Ballyloughane Beach, east of Galway City, passing through Oranmore, Rinville, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Kinvara, Gort, Woodford, Portumna, Meelick, Clonfert, Ballinasloe, Shannonbridge, and finishing at Athlone Castle before linking with the cycleway to Dublin.
He claimed there was support for approximately 90% of the route and that the so-called hybrid model – where the cycleway would go along a national or regional road – would only be used in discreet isolated areas that were specific pinch points.
Cycleways beside long stretches of road were not safe, he has previously contended.
Clifden roster dispute escalates despite HSE recruitment
Staff at both a hospital and nursing home in Clifden are balloting for industrial action over changes to the rosters – despite a targeted recruitment campaign for nurses that has resulted in over 20 applications.
Last week Clifden District Hospital – beset by critical staff shortages – closed for four days with the HSE claiming that no patients were booked into the facility with respite and step-down beds for recuperating patients who can be medically discharged from an acute hospital but deemed not well enough to go home.
This was the same week when the HSE admitted that 4,662 bed days were lost at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park and 1,295 at Portiuncula Hospital in the first nine months of this year due to delayed discharges.
The HSE said the four days could be used by staff at Clifden District Hospital and St Anne’s Community Nursing Unit to take leave accrued due to overtime they had built up over filling in shifts due to a lack of workers.
Anne Burke, Galway industrial relations officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the union did not accept there was no demand for beds in a facility such as the Clifden District Hospital.
“They have orchestrated this downgrading of the hospital because we believe they want it for another purpose which they have not yet revealed. If you don’t advertise you’re open for business you won’t get the business. We think they don’t want it to be a viable option,” she exclaimed.
“They have always told us that staff weren’t interested in coming to Clifden. But there was no meaningful recruitment. Now, finally, they advertised specifically for jobs in Clifden, and we have been told that 29 applications were submitted and 21 are deemed eligible for interview, which we understand will take place next week.”
The INMO and SIPTU [Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union] are to ballot members from the two facilities for industrial action next week over changes to the rosters.
They claim the HSE is breaching the Building Momentum public service agreement which requires changes to rosters to be done by agreement between management and staff. A previous memo withdrawing the staff right to seven uncertified sick leave days was rescinded following lengthy talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.
Over 700 people attending a public meeting last September over fears Clifden District Hospital was being closed by the HSE. The hospital has had 12 beds for patients since the Covid pandemic, down from 30 some years ago.
After meeting with local politicians, the organisation issued a press release stating the facility would not close but said the respite and step-down services “remain on a day-to-day footing” due to staff shortages.
“The HSE has agreed to meet with GPs in the Clifden area to discuss the needs in the community for respite and step-down beds.”
They also announced they would run a ‘bespoke’ recruitment campaign for nurses.
The INMO estimates that seven additional nurses are needed for the hospital and a further six are required for the nursing unit to maintain rosters.