Posted on Tuesday 13 December 2011 by Ulster Business

Getting Northern Ireland's business to the world on time

The arrival of FedEx in Belfast is timely given the local business community is firmly focused on global trade to secure the future of the Northern Ireland economy, writes Symon Ross.

Image (Above): Gerald Leary of FedEx and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster watch on as the company's Belfast operation is officially launched.

The world’s largest express transportation company has established a new facility at Kilroot Business Park in Carrickfergus which it believes will improve connectivity for firms in Northern Ireland doing business with foreign markets.

As well as creating employment for more than 50 people the arrival of FedEx Express to the province is perhaps recognition of the increasing focus that is being put on exports by the local business community and Government alike.

The FedEx investment here consists of both a domestic ground delivery service within Northern Ireland and a FedEx global service using a daily flight from Belfast International to the company’s European hub in Paris, which sorts packages in the middle of the night for delivery.

This will feed into the various international hubs and accelerate delivery times to many parts of the globe, notably North America and Asia, which should enhance the competitiveness of firms doing business with these markets. A next-business-day service will also operate to and from Europe and to the US East Coast, with a two-business-day service to Asia and the rest of the US.

Those services might not sound that impressive in a digital world where people expect instant communication and connectivity, but Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the presence of FedEx will add to our inward investment proposition and increase attractiveness to potential investors.

Gerald Leary, President of FedEx Express Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & Africa also believes that being directly linked into the FedEx network by the company’s own aircraft will help local firms to reach beyond neighbouring markets and boost economic prosperity in the process.

At the launch of the local operation he told Ulster Business that setting up in Belfast was a natural step for the company.

“The overall global economy has slowed but we’ve found that often that is the best time to invest and expand your business,” he said. “When FedEx started back in the early 1970s it was a soft time in the American economy to start a business, so we see this as a perfect time to invest. The global economy certainly impacts us but we see global trade as the future in continuing growth, and we see that in Northern Ireland.”
Leary joined FedEx in 1974 as a courier, after which he worked up the ranks, spending six years as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for FedEx Trade Networks.

Unlike many American executives who land in on these shores, Leary is already very familiar with Northern Ireland. Like many North Americans he has historical family connections to the province and he was in Co Down last year for his daughter’s marriage to a Newcastle native.

He said there has been an overwhelming response to the company’s launch here and is happy to predict that the operation will grow – noting that FedEx started out delivering 186 packages in the US and now handles 3.5 million daily.

“I would say for our start-up here in Northern Ireland this is just the beginning. It is one small step in a long plan to expand our business,” he said.

“Obviously as we grow our volumes we are looking to expand our business and the next step would be bringing a jet into here – we’re optimistic that hopefully that can happen sooner rather than later as the volumes build. As we provide jet services, heavier freight services into and out of the market, again it offers an opportunity for all kinds of businesses here in Northern Ireland and at the same time it is good for us,” he adds.

“It depends on the business demand. If the growth is there, next week we will have a plane. We’re ready to go.”

Belfast International has, he says, been extremely co-operative and professional and its management team is interested in FedEx upgrading to jet services as soon as possible.

Conscious of the work that is happening at the Northern Ireland Science Park and in the local electronics industry, the FedEx chief sees real opportunities for that growth to happen. He expects that it will be the electronics, pharmaceuticals and science-based businesses that rely on moving everything from day to day documents to heavy freight, which will avail of its services.

While Leary acknowledges there is substantial competition in the courier and international freight markets, he believes FedEx’s reputation for good service will stand it apart.

“On the people side of our business, we have an outstanding staff who are highly trained, and we are very loyal to our people – we treat them very well. From a service standpoint we focus on customer experience and it goes far beyond just picking up and delivering the package. That’s one of the things that truly differentiates us,” he commented.

“We’re looking now at how to grow the business and expand. That’s our main focus right now. It is very much dependent on how we grow our business. We have some expert sales executives on board and we are very optimistic about how things are going to grow.”

FedEx Fast Facts

Federal Express was founded in 1971 and a corporation was created in 1998 as FDX Corporation and became FedEx Corporation in January 2000. Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee it has revenues of $39.3bn and more than 290,000 staff worldwide looking after 8.5 million shipments for express, ground, freight and expedited delivery services in more than 220 countries. It serves more than 375 airports worldwide from over 1,000 stations and 10 air express hubs. Across Europe, the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, FedEx Express currently serves hundreds of cities and markets with its intercontinental and international express service. Home to the biggest hub outside of the US at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, FedEx is systematically building its network across the region through smart, strategic investments. This includes an enhanced next-business-day delivery service from Europe to major US East Coast cities and an International Economy service within Europe. Its 20,000 sq ft Northern Ireland operation, which started in late October, has 52 team members in Carrickfergus and 35 vehicles.

 

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