Second sites strategy creates more opportunity for success
IDA encourages Dublin-based clients to open sister sites in west – MetLife in Galway and First Data in Nenagh show strategy in action
First Data, an Atlanta-based financial technology company that oversees the secure processing of many of the world’s credit and debit transactions has set up sites in Dublin and Nenagh
Once a multinational company is thriving at its first base in Ireland, the IDA loses no time in selling the idea of opening a second satellite operation – preferably outside Dublin and often in an empty older building fully updated for fashion and function.
Frank Conlon, the IDA's head of property, says the agency’s “second sites” policy seeks to build on foreign investors’ positive experience in Ireland by encouraging them to expand into one of the country’s more jobs-hungry corners. The approach breathes new life into towns and cities across the midlands and west.
Conlon says the IDA markets its own property portfolio, and collaborates with the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and private receivers, to transform neglected office blocks and abandoned industrial sites into attractive expansion sites for some of the IDA’s nearly 1,400 client companies.
“You never write off any building in this game,” Conlon says. “There are buildings that have remained unfinished since the financial crisis a decade ago. Once we find a willing partner, we’re turning these facilities into modern, high-tech workplaces that would not look out of place in the Dublin Docklands or even Silicon Valley.”
Two particularly good current examples are the new MetLife technology campus in the centre of Galway city and First Data’s R&D centre in the Tipperary town of Nenagh.
New York-based insurer MetLife arrived in Ireland in 2006, employs more than 300 today in central Dublin, and last November opened its Galway campus, where it plans to employ about 200 information technology professionals, business analysts and app developers by 2019. Their home is a 1970s’ office block called the Hynes Building, that has been radically transformed into a bright open-plan workplace with many creature comforts, including a meditation room.
“The transformation is magic,” says Conlon, who notes that the IDA in this case worked as a matchmaker between MetLife and the building’s owner.
We had to gut it and bring it up to modern specifications. Once we knew First Data were looking to expand, we put Nenagh on the table
The IDA took a similar approach with First Data, the Atlanta-based financial technology company that oversees the secure processing of many of the world’s credit and debit transactions.
Conlon says the IDA bought a 32,000sq ft unfinished building from receivers on the Limerick Road outside Nenagh with hopes of finding a suitor.
“It had never been occupied. It was sitting empty from 2007. We had to gut it and bring it up to modern specifications. We did a full refurbishment to bring it up to landlord finish,” he says. “Once we knew First Data were looking to expand, we put Nenagh on the table.”
First Data already employs 25,000 worldwide, including 300 at two sites in Dublin, and now plans to employ at least 150 more in Nenagh, where it’s recruiting a mixture of graduate and veteran tech workers to develop new software and payment apps, tablet-based payment processing systems and fraud-detection tools for its six million global customers.
Stephen Coogan, First Data’s senior vice-president for international properties, has visited Nenagh each month for the past two years to ensure the building’s transformation is proceeding to design, budget and schedule for a March grand opening.
The First Data facility sports an open-plan environment of big-screen TVs, brightly coloured sofas, pastel walls and designer touches.
“We looked at many sites. We decided on Nenagh and Tipperary and made a decent deal with the IDA. I would call it a unique opportunity,” says Coogan, who oversees more than 150 First Data properties globally. “The IDA and the Irish Government are providing us incentives that made this viable for the company to set up here as opposed to other EU countries.”
He says many of the R&D activities to be pursued in Nenagh could have been based in any developed country, but the IDA and Tipperary County Council officials ensured the Nenagh proposition was persuasive on several fronts.
“The IDA did a total refurbishment for us and upgraded the whole building. We basically gave them a spec for a turnkey operation and they provided that. It was ready to go,” Coogan said in an interview after his January visit to the site. “It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility.”
Nenagh’s proximity to such a strong pool of specialised graduates represents an exciting opportunity for us
Coogan says the electricity supply and other infrastructural needs on the Nenagh site are excellent, and he sees an even more powerful supply of talent flowing from the nearby University of Limerick and the Limerick Institute of Technology.
“We’ll partner up with the local universities on projects down the road. Nenagh’s proximity to such a strong pool of specialised graduates represents an exciting opportunity for us,” he says.
Coogan says one issue of concern – whether the quality of internet service in a rural location would be sufficient – has been comprehensively addressed following speed tests on site.
“I’ll tell you, Nenagh has an extremely well-lit fibre network. It’s exceptionally fast,” Coogan says. “It’s turned out to be one of the big selling points for Co Tipperary and the IDA. They proved it to us. Ireland has a superb infrastructure, so coming to Nenagh offers many advantages for us.”
Frank Conlon says the second-site policy is a key driver for growing IDA-supported jobs outside Dublin. The IDA annual report published in January found that of 237 investments attracted in 2017, almost 100 happened outside the greater Dublin area.
Overall, employment at IDA-backed companies rose more than 5.3 per cent to a record high of 210,433, representing more than 10 per cent of Ireland’s entire workforce.
For more, visit idaireland.com