It emerged this afternoon that all of the enterprise support functions carried out by Shannon Development in relation to indigenous and overseas businesses will be taken over by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland (EI). Instead, Shannon Development will be given a role of addressing the needs of less developed parts of the Shannon region.
It will also retain responsibility for all its industrial property in the Shannon region and for developing and managing the Shannon Free Zone industrial estate.
Although Shannon Development’s role is being described as “an enhanced regional economic development role” critics and supporters of the agency may construe its new existence as a diminished one.
Commenting on the decision to decentralise the headquarters of EI to Shannon and the establishment of a new independent Shannon Airport, Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin TD said: “A number of recent developments have dictated that the company’s [Shannon Development] role going forward should be reviewed. Discussions have been ongoing with the company since early last year on this issue and in March the chairman submitted proposals for a revised strategy for the company.
“These proposals provide that the company would exit certain tourism and enterprise support activities, which could be carried out by other development agencies, and it would focus on strategic value-added activities that would contribute to the economic development of the region.”
The minister said he accepted the logic of this approach but he has directed the company’s efforts in this regard should focus on the geographical areas within its existing remit most in need of development.
In considering a future role for Shannon Development, the minister said he had also taken on board the Enterprise Strategy Group recommendation that Shannon Development should disengage from industrial development activities, which should be carried out by the national agencies, EI and IDA Ireland. EI will be responsible for the development of indigenous industry that will involve the transfer of Shannon Development staff to that body.
The minister said Shannon Development will be required to work closely with the national industrial development agencies in providing property solutions. “In this regard its work will complement, rather than overlap with the agencies,” he added.
“Promotion of the Shannon Free Zone will also be assumed by IDA Ireland that, with its extensive network of overseas offices, is clearly better positioned to carry out this function,” he said. IDA Ireland already has responsibility for promoting inward investment to the rest of the Shannon region.
The minister has asked Shannon Development to prepare a new corporate plan that will reflect the specific actions that will be undertaken under the terms of the new mandate.
Nonetheless, any new corporate plan under the new structure will find itself competing against a rich legacy, as the minister recalls: “Since its inception in 1959, with a specific mandate to support the development of Shannon Airport, Shannon Development’s role has evolved and adapted to meet changing circumstances and the needs of the region.
“There can be no doubt the company has served the region well and has made a valuable and lasting contribution to its economic development. It developed the world’s first industrial duty free zone at Shannon, Ireland’s first science and technology park in Limerick and has taken imaginative initiatives in relation to tourism product development that have served as a model for other regions.”
By John Kennedy