Plan aims to create jobs at disused industrial site

A plan is to be drawn up for a large, disused industrial site with the aim of creating jobs in Co Kerry at a time when unemployment in the area is rising.

Killarney Technology Innovation Centre (KTI) is to look at ways of restarting activity on the 12-acre site where more than 1,000 people were once employed by the Pretty Polly company on the town’s Park Road.

According to the latest CSO Live Register figures, the number of people signing on in Killarney in January jumped by 206 since December and totals 3,116.

The former Pretty Polly/Sara Lee site, which includes a sprawling factory building, was purchased by Killarney Town Council for €2m in 2005.

The idea at the time was it would be used by incoming or start-up enterprises, or by businesses wishing to move from the town centre, but very little has happened on the site since then.

The council has asked the KTI to prepare a plan for the disused factory, which is now being called the Killarney Opportunity Site.

“What we would be proposing is to bring ideas forward in partnership with the KTI and to develop a strategy,” said town clerk Michael O’Leary.

Recently, Killarney mayor Sean Counihan highlighted the need for a renewed focus on attracting industrial investment to Killarney.

He said there was a misperception among state job-creation agencies that the area was ‘doing fine’ because of its tourism industry — the town’s main employer — was so successful.

An estimated 1,500 jobs in manufacturing have been lost in Killarney since the 1990s.

The town has one major industrial employer, the German-owned Liebherr company, which employs well over 500 in producing container cranes for the global market. Liebherr has been in Killarney for more than 50 years.

Mr Counihan and town manager John Breen are both involved with KTI. The group is to develop a strategy that will come back before the council for consideration.

The Park Road site was first occupied by the Pretty Polly tights manufacturing company, in the 1960s.

Pretty Polly closed in the 1990s and the Sara Lee company took over the factory and the land in 2000, but closed its operations in 2005.

Under a buy-back clause, the property was repurchased by the Pretty Polly trustees who later sold it to the council.

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