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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sola says goodbye

It’s been a while since there was as significant a jobs loss for Wexford. Unfortunately yesterday Carl Zeiss or Sola Lenses as they are better known here announced the end of production at their factory in Whitemill. Over 80 jobs will go as decades of production will end and the company retains its back office facility for Ireland with just 20 jobs as opposed to the hundreds that worked in the factory when Sola was at its peak. The production will be transferred to China. I really feel sorry for the workers who are losing their jobs, some of their children teach, some of the workers I’ve taught in the past. Some will never work again as age and skill sets are against them. It’s a really sad and worrying time for families.

I’m really sorry that Carl Zeiss have made this move. It’s clear to me that the real decision was made some time back and that the company in the end ignored even requests to take even a phone calls relating to the company’s plans. The factory has been in wind down mode for sometime as work was sent outside the country in the last few years to other low wage economies. However when Carl Zeiss finally shut the doors and leave we are still left with a town where unemployment is going up and an economy still fragile and lacking in confidence. Coming this week after the successful Wexford EXPO which provided a forum for local enterprise, it’s another indicator that the road back to a successful economy will not be easy in any circumstances

Add this to the loss of Wexford Electronics and rapidly Wexford’s technological base is disappearing with no promise of a replacement. To be fair Coca Cola has arrived in town and there are high end jobs there, but the cold wind of economic prioritisation of major towns for jobs is leaving Wexford behind. Recently we had a motion at Wexford Borough Council that asked the IDA to pinpoint jobs for the town. The suggestion was that the Ida was only interested in places like Waterford. However when Talk Talk announced its departure from Waterford the clear suggestion was that Waterford was being by-passed by Cork for jobs. So Waterford jumps Wexford and Cork jumps Waterford. That leaves us in the third division when it comes to the IDA. The IDA believe that major job packages look for a large city with an airport, university and skill sets and that’s where they see their focus so all the regions are going nowhere.

It’s time for the IDA to wake up to the reality of Ireland beyond the college wall or airport terminal. Wexford has a high quality MANS fibre optic cable which is underutilised, a decent quality of life and very affordable housing for workers. Add to that the convenience of Rosslare Port with land provided for industry by Brendan Howlin, a good road and rail network there is the basis for industry if the IDA was prepared to push for the county. For sometime the IDA has ignored the town. This cannot be allowed to continue.

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