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Shannon - overcoming the digital divide Back  
With over 1,000 financial services industry jobs, Shannon has established itself as a centre of excellence for a range of financial and international service activities, proving to be the location of choice for institutions such as GE Money, Genworth Financial and Halifax. The area is currently preparing itself for the next generation of companies, by updating and expanding the commercial property facilities in the region.
The Shannon Free Zone has been an international investment location for over 40 years. Attracted by the mix of fiscal, infrastructural and business supports, many global leaders in a variety of sectors including Financial Services have chosen to locate there.

Operating from a campus adjacent to Shannon International Airport, over 100 companies currently employ 7,500 people and generate exports in excess of €2.5 billion per annum. The key business activities carried out in the region include customer support & contact centres; shared services and back office operations; financial services; supply chain management and headquarter operations.

Shannon’s successes as an investment location is driven by a number of key factors –
• Highly skilled workforce - Shannon has pro-actively developed strong links with the University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology to ensure a pool of suitably qualified graduates
• Cost effective transport link to international markets
• Financial incentives and assistance from Shannon Development, the Irish government agency responsible for promoting Shannon, tailored to particular companies’ needs
• Greater value on offer in terms of office lease & rental rates
• The region has unique quality of life factors particularly ease of commuting, high quality but affordable houses, world class life style recreation facilities complimented with the best of educational facilities

Halifax Insurance Ireland Ltd (Halifax), a subsidiary of HBOS plc (Halifax Bank of Scotland plc) opened for business in Shannon in January 2001 with an initial employee base of 55. Continued business expansion has seen this grow to over 300, across a number of functions, including insurance underwriting, customer
services, operations, claims processing, business development, finance & actuarial, IT and human resources.
Commenting on their move to Shannon, Jerry White, managing director of Halifax, said, ‘Halifax’s decision to
locate in Shannon was primarily influenced by the availability of an educated and experienced workforce in the locality and the proximity to an international airport. Their continued expansion indicates the region has not disappointed’.

Another major player in financial services in Shannon is GE Money, which employs 300 people in Shannon, and is a leading Irish provider of auto, equipment and consumer finance. As part of GE’s Consumer Finance Group, the company provides an extensive portfolio of finance services including private label credit cards, personal loans, bank cards, auto loans and leases, mortgages, corporate travel and purchasing cards, debt consolidation, home equity loans and credit insurance.

Another company with a strong GE heritage is Genworth Financial. Genworth employs over 400 people in its operations’ ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Shannon, which was established in 1997.

The future success of Shannon in encouraging financial services and technology companies to re-locate, is very much dependent on staying ahead of the game in terms of what can be offered to potential investors and overcoming any perceived digital divide between the East and West coasts of the country.

One key area where Shannon is innovating is next generation property. A major €200 million campus development called ‘Westpark Shannon’ began construction in 2005, and phase one is welcoming its first tenants this summer. This development is literally changing the skyline of Shannon and will eventually provide over one million square feet of quality office and leisure space.

In developing Westpark Shannon Limited, Brian O’Connell, managing director, has undertaken a commitment to eliminate the digital divide of the Western Corridor and in particular the Shannon area.

Westpark will now have the best of ICT infrastructure which will be fully integrated and resilient connecting directly into global connectivity.

Westpark’s tenants will have full connectivity and optimum choice of services. This will allow both local and international corporations to operate from Westpark.

Ireland’s first Regional Data Centre will have a major position data centre in the Atlantic corridor and the data centre will transact and interface with all of the 270 technology companies of the Atlantic Technology Corridor and would also connect to the 120 companies in the Shannon Free Zone area. By the end of 2007 this Regional first data centre promoted by both the IDA and Shannon Development under Government policy will clearly change the landscape of the area and position it in pole position for attracting foreign direct investment.

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