Wednesday, 16 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Finucane: Giro Ireland Ltd. announced on 11 May that it intended to close its bicycle helmet assembly facility located in Newcastlewest on 16 July. The reason given by its American owners was worldwide manufacturing consolidation and restructuring. A total of 33 employees will lose their jobs and six will be retained in the customer service area. I recall being critical in the early 1990s of the lack of overseas industrial development in Newcastlewest. I have no doubt that due to my efforts at the time the IDA attracted Giro Ltd. and it commenced assembly operations in 1991.
The Minister of State may also recall that following the closure in 1995 of Neodata, an American company located in Newcastlewest, there was a consequential loss of jobs. The town is expanding and there is concern about the lack of overseas industrial development in the area. The last overseas industry to locate there was Giro Ltd. I read the IDA document and it stated that it was committed to spending 50 per cent of Objective One funding on greenfield projects. However, Limerick did not receive Objective One status. To what degree is the Minister committed to establishing further overseas companies in Newcastlewest?
Currently, there are extensive road works  between Limerick city and Adare, with the city being bypassed. There will not be a difficulty with regard to the infrastructure in the area. Newcastlewest is the county capital and the ideal location for further industrial development. It is a matter of urgency that the IDA and Shannon Development provide new industry for the town and its surrounding area. I hope in his response the Minister of State will reassure me that there is determination to find an attractive industry to replace the company which is closing down.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): I share the Deputy's concern and disappointment over the recent decision by Giro Ireland Ltd. to close its plant in Newcastlewest. It is a manufacturer of bicycle helmets and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell Sports Inc., an American company located in San José, California.
The facility in Newcastlewest was established in 1991 to serve the needs of the European marketplace. On 16 July 1999, Giro Ireland Ltd. will close its bicycle helmet assembly facility with the loss of 35 permanent jobs. Its customer services office, as the Deputy said, will remain in the Newcastlewest area and employ approximately five people. The closure of the Irish plant is part of a worldwide manufacturing consolidation and restructuring programme.
Its parent company, Bell Sports Inc., has adopted a global strategy of outsourcing its product lines in order to focus on research and design and sales and marketing to respond to the increasing competitive cost pressures of the marketplace. As part of this strategy 105 manufacturing jobs were lost at the company's plant in Santa Cruz in recent months and the closure of its plant in Canada was recently announced with the loss of 120 jobs. Bell Sports Inc. is outsourcing its products from companies it does no own in lower cost locations, for example, China.
I am informed that the company will provide severance packages and an outplacement consultancy service for its employees, which will give advice on the transition to other employment and interview skills. FÁS will also assist the workers through its programmes to seek employment in the many developing and expanding companies in the wider Limerick area. While the recent job loss announcement in the Newcastlewest plant is clearly a major blow to the workforce affected, overall employment prospects remain very positive in the Limerick region.
Fortunately, the region has both shared in and contributed to economic growth in Ireland and has seen tremendous development across a range of sectors and activities. Manufacturing employment in the region has increased by more than 30 per cent since 1993. The area has a quality infrastructure and its proximity to Shannon Airport and the University of Limerick is a strong attraction for overseas investment.
The Plassey Technology Park, Raheen Indus trial Estate and the Shannon Free Zone are the chosen locations for a growing number of high technology companies. Moreover, it is expected that the strong level of recruitment by existing companies in the Limerick area will continue due to the high level of industrial grant approvals in recent years. For example, last year Dell Computer announced a major expansion of its Limerick operation which will bring total employment at its facilities to almost 6,000 by 2002.
In addition, in 1998, in nearby Abbeyfeale, Component Inter Technologies, CIT, Ireland Limited announced a £2 million expansion which has led to more than 40 additional jobs. Abbeyfeale is the location of one of the region's largest employers, Kostal Ireland Ltd, which employs more than 1,000 people in the manufacture of automotive components. We also announced in November 1998, that HADCO Corporation, USA, was to establish an operation at the National Technological Park, Limerick. The company has initially established its customer and engineering services centre, with 70 jobs, and plans, in a phase II development, to establish a manufacturing facility, which will account for up to 80 new jobs.
These latest job opportunities for the Limerick region will add to the substantial numbers of new jobs provided by other Limerick-based companies such as PKS Systems, Martin Dawes and Fullerton, which continue to build up their employment in the Limerick area. I assure the Deputy that both Shannon Development and the IDA are committed to ensuring that these advances continue.
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