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GW Plastics expands its Ireland operation



Valley News Business Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2019

BETHEL — GW Plastics, one of the Upper Valley’s biggest manufacturers, is expanding — in Ireland.

The Bethel and Royalton company, which specializes in injection mold and contract manufacturing for the medical device and safety equipment markets, will invest $6.8 million to build out a 28,000-square-foot facility in Sligo, Ireland, where it acquired an Irish precision mold maker a couple years ago.

GW Plastics unveiled the plans at a news conference in Sligo, Ireland, which was attended by Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, along with GW Plastics Chief Executive Brenan Riehl and Thomas Johansen, GW’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

GW Plastics said the Ireland plant expansion is being driven by “increased customer demand in its medical device and drug delivery business.” The project is receiving support from the Irish government through IDA Ireland, which attracts foreign investment in Irish companies.

Riehl, via email, declined to detail specifics about the Irish government’s support other than to note that IDA Ireland is making available a new building to GW at an “attractive lease rate arrangement” in addition to providing “employment-based grant funding for capital equipment.”

Sligo, a coastal city of about 20,000 people located in Ireland’s northwest corner, is a center of mold- and toolmaking in the country.

Varadkar, in trumpeting the 200 new jobs GW Plastics said it will create over time with the expansion in Sligo, emphasized that the town and the region are one of the target areas under the government’s Project Ireland 2020 national development plan that aims to make the country a destination for tech manufacturing companies.

Riehl said a manufacturing presence in Ireland makes GW Plastics “more attractive to our multinational customers” and credited the country’s “abundant technical workforce,” favorable tax structure, common language and “close proximity to the U.S., U.K. and EU” as factors in its favor.

In 2017, GW Plastics bought Avenue Mould Solutions, based in Sligo, saying the acquisition brought it “an experienced and highly skilled advanced manufacturing workforce” and company with “a growing medical device contract manufacturing business.” A few months later, GW Plastics bought NeraTek Ltd., which develops prototype designs for medical device and pharmaceutical companies, and merged it into Avenue Mould Solutions.

The Irish company currently employs about 50 people. GW Plastics, which also operates plants in Texas, Arizona, Mexico and China, has more than 1,000 employees worldwide, including about 400 in Bethel and Royalton.

GW Plastics expansion in Ireland comes as the U.K. is struggling over its withdrawal from the European Union, known as Brexit. Because Ireland is solidly aligned with the EU, a “hard break” without a trade deal could have profound consequences for Irish companies that trade with the U.K.

Riehl acknowledged “there is a great deal of hand-wringing over the Brexit impact to the Irish economy.” But, he said, Varadkar “mentioned the possibility of a bilateral trade agreement between the U.K. and Ireland as a workaround to the Brexit issue.”

Ironically, Riehl noted, Brexit “could also help our operations in Ireland as more EU countries look to work with Ireland over the U.K.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.