Seanad Éireann - Volume 171 - 13 March, 2003
Adjournment Matters. - Company Closures.
Mr. J. Phelan Mr. J. Phelan
Mr. J. Phelan: I again welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, to the House. As Senator Minihan said, he seems to have been here often, over the past couple of days in particular.
 My motion stems from the announcement yesterday by TexTech in Kilkenny that it is to cease operations within the next two to three weeks. This announcement is obviously a tragedy for the 70 people employed there, particularly for many who would have been workers in the Fieldcrest plant in Kilkenny which closed about 18 years ago. Many of the workers in TexTech took up employment there after being laid off in Fieldcrest and therefore it is the second time they have been laid off in a 15 to 20 year period. I am interested to know what the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, is proposing to do in the north Kilkenny region in particular.
This announcement yesterday comes following the announcement before Christmas of the closure of the Comerama plant, which employed over 100 people, in Castlecomer. Contrary to the popular perception that the south-east region is doing reasonably well, unemployment figures would suggest that the region, and north Kilkenny in particular, has a higher than average rate of unemployment. Through the years, north Kilkenny was always a location for various types of manufacturing employment. There is still a large population in the Castlecomer area, where traditionally there was employment in the coalmines, but there is a high rate of unemployment in the north Kilkenny region, which is one of the country's black-spots.
I raise this matter to ascertain the Department's plans for Kilkenny city which, it is fair to say, has not seen over the years of the Celtic tiger the same level of job creation which other parts of the country have enjoyed, and also for the north Kilkenny region. I will be interested in the Minister of State's reply.
Mr. M. Ahern Mr. M. Ahern
Mr. M. Ahern: I thank the Senator for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I learnt with grave disappointment of the decision by TexTech Limited to cease production at its Kilkenny facility with the loss of 75 jobs. I understand that closure will take place on a phased basis over the next few weeks
TexTech Industries is a privately owned US company headquartered in Portland, Maine. It is involved in textile engineering and fabrication for high performance industrial application. Owing to financial losses incurred in 2001, the company closed two of its six manufacturing operations worldwide.
The Kilkenny facility has operated since 1985 manufacturing woven felt for tennis balls. It sells its product to Tretom, Penn, Bridgestone and MSP among others, and has been one of the more profitable parts of the company historically. In more recent times, however, the Irish plant has been struggling to contain costs and is under pressure from a newly established manufacturing facility in Thailand.
According to the US parent company, it is not in a position to support the operation losses that are currently being incurred at the Kilkenny plant, and has excess capacity in a number of its manufacturing facilities in the US and Thailand. In the medium term, the company is also planning to build a manufacturing facility in China.
FÁS, the national training authority, will assist those who are being made redundant to find suitable alternative employment. FÁS will make available its full range of support services including skills analysis, jobs placement, guidance and counselling interviews, identification of training needs and suitable training courses. FÁS will also ensure ongoing support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market.
IDA Ireland's strategy for the south-east of developing credible alternatives to the main centres of choice has been outstandingly successful in Kilkenny city. This has served to boost the dynamic profile Kilkenny enjoys, both nationally and on the international stage, as a strategic business location. Significantly, recent job announcements support current IDA strategy for the development of Kilkenny city and have successfully leveraged Kilkenny's profile as the leading regional software and financial services location in the south-east.
Four main international services projects have been announced for the city since July 2000. They are Infoscore software development, with 22 jobs, Deutsche International fund administration, with 125 jobs, and Bank of Ireland customer services centre, with 200 jobs, all of which are located on the new IDA Business and Technology Park; and the VHI business centre, with 400 jobs, located on the IDA Industrial Park at Purcellsinch Kilkenny.
As the county town, Kilkenny city is at the centre of a catchment area of almost 180,000 people. Proximity to both Carlow and Waterford Institutes of Technology has secured a steady available labour pool, while first class living and leisure solutions are proving attractive to those wishing to relocate from major cities.
The IDA is seeking to ensure the prosperity of Kilkenny city as a whole over time. There is considerably less emphasis on traditional manufacturing type industries providing multiple job opportunities. It is likely that this could be the trend for the future and a key indicator as to future job prospects in the city and county. The closure of TexTech reflects this trend and comes at a time when economic challenges are particularly strong.
To support this commitment to Kilkenny city, IDA has developed a prestigious 50 acre business and technology park on the Dublin Road to cater for the growing international services market and for new companies seeking to invest. IDA Ireland plans to focus efforts on securing foreign direct investment and as a result jobs to this landmark park.
This strategy was reinforced recently with the launch of the national spatial strategy, whereby Kilkenny qualified as a hub under the 20 year Government strategic plan aimed at ensuring more successful and balanced regional development. In the south-east, this means critical mass will be enhanced through Waterford performing as the “gateway”, supported by Wexford also as a key hub town. These three together form a nationally strategic “growth triangle” enhancing job opportunities for the south-east region overall.
The awarding of hub status to Kilkenny will, in time, benefit both the city and the surrounding environs and is a positive development overall for advancing economic development in the city. IDA Ireland currently works on a local basis with the Kilkenny County Development Board to secure the implementation of its ten-year strategy on economic, social and cultural development. This should ensure the best economic prospects for Kilkenny in the development of future employment opportunities. IDA Ireland will investigate the skills profile of employees from TexTech and will work with FÁS to identify and match resulting synergies with local employment opportunities.
The Seanad adjourned at 11.30 a.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 20 March 2003.
Seanad Éireann 171 Adjournment Matters. Company Closures.