THE lack of prime office space in Limerick city centre is a barrier to attracting further foreign direct investment, according to the region’s top business promoter.
Newly appointed IDA regional business development manager Niall O’Callaghan made his comments at a Shannon Chamber function on Tuesday when he said that the region now faces “international competition” in attracting big companies to Limerick.
However he said that the IDA was optimistic it would achieve its target of delivering 66 projects to the region by the end of 2019. There was reason to be buoyant following the recent arrival and expansions of Uber and Regeneron as well as continued growth in Shannon.
“If you look at Limerick City and County Council – who have excellent plans including the likes of the Hanging Gardens and the Opera Centre – you can see how this can help the IDA attract more foreign direct investment into the city centre”, he explained.
But he warned local business leaders that “Limerick City development plans are not moving as a fast as we would like to see them” and went on to call for more private investment to support the “attractiveness of the region”.
Outlining the IDA’s regional figures for 2015, he said that a six per cent increase in business helped retain an air of positivity throughout the region as a whole.
However the fact that County Clare accounted for 42 per cent of the foreign direct investment in the region suggested that readily available office space in Limerick was “essential”.
Last January, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he expected to be making a “significant jobs announcement” this summer for the Hanging Gardens site.
In March, the five-storey site was transferred to a wholly owned company to fast-track development work at an estimated cost of €12million with the potential to accommodate 750 employees.
Mr O’Callaghan said that while recent developments by Shannon Properties were encouraging, there “isn’t necessarily a queue of businesses waiting to go anywhere”.
“Right now, we have a shortage of prime office space in Limerick city centre. The plans are excellent and we would love to have it happen overnight, but the IDA is fully cognisant of the challenges involved in developing property in a city centre location.”
The region also faces other challenges such as broadband infrastructure and the lack of a motorway connection to Cork.
While not fully critical of the pace of development within Limerick city, Mr O’Callaghan said, “we would like to see the plans come to fruition and we are working closely with Limerick City and County Council to help develop those sites as attractive locations for future business.”