Healthy Galway scene despite IT slump

31 Oct 2002

While the global economic downturn continues to take its toll on Ireland’s IT sector, several recent announcements have meant good rather than bad news for Galway.

Three large US technology companies — NetIQ Corporation, Micros Systems and Medtronic — have all announced plans to locate or expand their existing presence in the county, bringing with them extra employment and knock-on benefits to the region.

NetIQ, a US specialist provider of IT management systems, announced in September that it is to open a facility at the Parkmore Business Park in Galway, with the support of the IDA. This facility, the company’s operations centre, will service the European, Middle East and African (EMEA) markets and is expected to create 180 new jobs over the next six years.

“There are several reasons why we selected Ireland and Galway for this project,” says Marc Andrews, NetIQ vice-president for the EMEA regions. “The most important is because the IDA made it attractive and because we think there is a great pool of talented individuals located in Galway. There is a high quality of living on offer for employees here and we are being provided with strong support from Government and local community.

“Locating here also allows us to consolidate our support operations for the sales force, our customers and business partners in the EMEA market and through a number of economies we can also lower our overall cost of operations,” he continues.

NetIQ’s initial activities in Galway will involve providing technical support and financial shared services functions to the rest of the company. Most of the new jobs will require graduates, many with multilingual skills, qualified in the wide range of disciplines being handled. Some 80 jobs will be created within the next three years.

This is the largest investment being undertaken by NetIQ outside of the US. In making its decision, the company pointed to the fact that Ireland has a proven track record in the IT sector and there are already a lot of software and hardware companies located in Galway.

Meanwhile, another large US IT company has also taken space in the Parkmore East Business Park. Some 180 new jobs are to be created over five years by Micros Systems as part of its global strategy of establishing large regional support centres. The company announced its intention to open in Galway in July and already 31 people are employed there.

“The main reason we are locating in Galway is the availability of the people we require. Galway has a large hotel management school in the Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology, and of particular use to us is a course that specialises in IT and hospitality studies. Those graduates are ideal for us,” says Steven Walder, Micros’ chief financial officer, EMEA.

“While there are other colleges in Europe with similar courses, the fact that the potential employee base in Galway is English-speaking and that there are already different nationalities there played a major part in our decision,” he goes on.

Micros Systems will now locate its global technical support, administration and treasury operations centre in Galway, a facility that will have responsibility for providing 24/7 support to hotels and restaurants in the EMEA regions that use the company’s IT systems, as well as provide support for the company’s new Opera suite of products.

While Galway is making some gains in these announcements, it is still suffering in other ways. “The reason we are getting companies to locate here is that we do have very high specification buildings in business parks, with good terms and with excellent infrastructure around them. We also have a university, an airport and great quality of life to offer,” says Ronan Rooney, a director of Galway-based commercial property specialist Rooney Chartered Surveyors and Property consultants.

“However, there is still an oversupply in Galway. There is enough on the market already to satisfy demand for another 12 months and there is a glut of space available in business parks. Developers made good money from business parks in the boom and then ploughed that back into new developments without waiting for demand to catch up with supply,” he continues.

A number of business parks in Galway have attracted a significant number of tech clients, including the Galway Technology Park, Ballybrit Business Park, Parkmore East Business Park and Liosban Business Park. For foreign companies looking at Ireland as a location, Galway still offers cheaper rents and charges than Dublin, with costs likely to decrease as more space becomes available.

“It’s encouraging to see companies moving in and Galway winning out over other locations, but I think that is because of the infrastructure we have here. The technology parks are in the right place, they have excellent facilities and great infrastructure. It’s just that demand has dropped off everywhere,” says Rooney.