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Ray O’Driscoll of Shannon Group reports on exciting times for the West of Ireland.
Looking back on 2019, the performance of Shannon Group Plc has reaffirmed its importance to the region.
Shannon Commercial Properties and Shannon Heritage both recorded strong growth and Shannon Airport finished the year on a high with a number of new route announcements in 2020.
From an aviation and aerospace perspective a major plus in 2020 was the fact that last year 15 new indigenous and overseas aviation businesses located in Shannon, reaffirming again the wider importance of Shannon to the region.
The past 12 months saw Shannon Group forge ahead with its ambitious investment strategy, investing over €33m on capital projects during the year.
These included the delivery of the first aircraft hangar in Ireland in almost 20 years, and the commencement of construction of 150,000 sq ft of new property solutions on a 12 acre site at Shannon Free Zone.
This brings total investment across Group companies to over €110m since its formation in 2014.
“The combination of the businesses within the single Group does create an opportunity to unlock synergies between those businesses, and provides a significant asset base from which we can grow and scale,” says Ray O’Driscoll, chief operating officer for the Group.
"The more companies that set up and grow here, the more business it brings to the airport, the more connectivity it brings, which in turns attracts more businesses.
"The four units within the Group work hand-in-hand together, and each other’s success brings benefits to the other companies.”
Mr O’Driscoll is a member of the Institute of CPA in Ireland, and holds an MBA degree from the University of Westminster in London, in addition to a postgraduate Diploma in Strategy and Innovation from UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School.
He joined Shannon Group in 2014 as managing director of Shannon Commercial Properties to manage the group’s diverse property portfolio.
Shannon Commercial Properties owns and manages one of Ireland’s largest property portfolios, with six business and technology parks, including Shannon Free Zone, over 2 million sq ft of building space, over 200 buildings and in excess of 1,500 acres of development land in 15 key locations across counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Kerry.
He is responsible for overseeing and driving the ongoing business operations in the Group’s companies — Shannon Airport, Shannon Commercial Properties, Shannon Heritage, and the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC), the Group brand which supports the growth of the aviation cluster at Shannon.
Mr O’Driscoll’s achievements within the Group to date include bringing over 800,000 sq ft of new or upgraded office, manufacturing and warehouse facilities to the market and attracting new industries to the region.
Under his stewardship the Group has seen occupancy rates across its property portfolio increase from 40% to over 90%.
“It is difficult to predict the future given the global uncertainty, even though Brexit and US-China trade agreements would appear to have reduced the degree of risk.
"We are cautiously optimistic for the future, and indeed we are currently handing over a newly constructed 90,000 sq ft aircraft hangar and we have just begun construction of three units measuring 150,000 sq ft in the Shannon Free Zone.
“We are continuing to invest, and we do have a pipeline of 1 million sq ft over the next five years, which we can turn down or turn up, depending on the demand and the movement of the global economy.”
During the year the Group invested over €2.5 million in fire safety measures at the airport, taking delivery of two new state-of-the-art High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET) fire tenders, the first airport in Ireland to do so, and developing a special fireground training area.
Ten new firefighters were also recruited at the airport.
The Group’s portfolio of eight visitor attractions operated by Shannon Heritage in counties Clare, Galway, Limerick and Dublin, saw visitor numbers increase by 4%, to 963,285.
In addition, 2019 also saw the company secure a new visitor attraction, the Casino Model Railway in Malahide, Co Dublin and officially open a new attraction, Newbridge House and Farm in Co Dublin, on behalf of Fingal County Council.
Through the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC), the Group also supports the development of a cluster of over 80 aviation companies based in the Shannon Free Zone.
Shannon Group is one of the single biggest and most important growth engines outside the capital region.
As a Group, it supports 46,500 jobs, generating an economic impact of €3.6bn a year, contributing €1.1bn in Exchequer returns.
“2019 has reaffirmed the contribution Shannon Group is making to achieve greater balance in the national economy, and the investment we have made in new and upgraded property solutions have enabled existing companies to grow employment numbers and attracted new companies to Shannon,” he says.
“The Limerick and Shannon region have had a very successful five years, with a substantial number of new companies setting up in the region, including Regeneron, Jaguar Land Rover, Edward Life Sciences, to name just a few.
“The employment generated by these new companies has significantly contributed to the Limerick/Shannon region really turning the corner.
"This economic revival has been underpinned by a number of factors, including great motorway infrastructure, connectivity from Shannon Airport to the UK, Europe and the USA, plus a number of prestigious universities and third level institutions.
“When you look at the Atlantic Corridor between Galway and Cork, which includes Limerick and Shannon, it provides a tremendous area of potential future investment, as well as being an economic counter-weight to the Dublin region.”