Initiative is good for employment in food sector - and Nama
BACKGROUND:THE ARRAY of smiling Government Ministers present at Kerry Group’s press conference in the Shelbourne Hotel was testimony to the importance of yesterday’s announcement.
Not only were there 900 jobs; those jobs also ticked a number of boxes – exports, innovation, technology and the all-important food and drinks sector.
The Government was directly involved in the investment through Enterprise Ireland’s financial support for the project, though the level of involvement in securing the site for the new innovation centre, which is owned by Nama, is unclear. So what exactly will this new centre do?
Although Kerry Group is known for its consumer foods, such as Denny and Cheesestrings, the company is chiefly a business-to-business company, supplying ingredients and flavours to some of the world’s top food and pharmaceutical companies.
These include Kellogg’s, Heinz, Cadbury, Proctor and Gamble and Unilever.
This involves formulating everything from food coatings, savoury and sweet flavourings and bakery ingredients to functional ingredients for the pharma sector.
Kerry’s new Global Technology and Innovation Centre will focus on this area.
The site is designed to “drive strategic customer engagement”, ie Kerry’s top customers will be given access to a commercialisation centre and technical and innovation facilities in the food science and pharma areas. Hence the proximity of the site to the airport. It is understood the company looked at a number of sites near Dublin Airport, as well as potential locations near Heathrow airport and mainland Europe, before settling on the site now owned by Nama.
A number of the 900 jobs to be created by 2016 will involve the redeployment of existing staff, though Kerry Group declined to comment on how many of the new positions would be filled by existing employees. How much of an impact this will have on the presence in Co Kerry, where it has traditionally been an important employer, is unclear, though the company indicated that it would be minimal.
Already over the past year a number of Kerry Group’s workforce – up to 200 at any one time – have been operating out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel and other hotels near Dublin Airport, where they are working on the roll-out of the company’s integrated SAP IT system.
This is part of the company’s Kerryconnect programme that aims to consolidate and streamline its global business processes.
While this process is scheduled to finish by 2015, it is not clear if these people will then transfer to the new site in Naas, which will also house Kerry Global Business Services and support functions.
Senior Kerry employees from across its European operations are also expected to be redeployed, while Kerry is expected to recruit up to 150 graduates per year.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Kerry Group at Millennium Business Park is also good news for Nama, as it tries to sell and lease the remaining lands. The site has effectively been for sale for the last number of years, since the agency took over the loans. The sale of Millennium Business Park was one of the biggest deals of the property boom – the 331-acre site and adjoining lands were sold for a record €315 million in 2006 to Tom Considine, Gerry Prendergast and Paddy Sweeney, and subsequently transferred to Nama.
The fact that a Nama property is to be occupied by one of Ireland’s most successful and innovative companies will be no doubt viewed by the Government as a desirable, if slightly ironic, outcome for one of the most infamous deals of the boom.