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by Brian Conroy, Executive Vice President and Director of North America at IDA Ireland
Having left on a flight from Dublin Airport headed to JFK Airport in September to take up my new role running IDA Irelands U.S. operation, I knew that New York would look different but it was still a bit unreal to see the normally bustling terminals so quiet, streets so sparsely populated and even the taxi drivers subdued. It was abundantly clear that this job I had been looking forward to would be profoundly changed -- as was most of the world -- as a result of the pandemic that had impacted so much.
As the government agency tasked with bringing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Ireland, IDA has an interesting perspective due to how closely we work with American companies that have located operations on our shores. Little did I expect that my new position would not just include the usual challenges, like assisting our many American clients in growing their overseas operations, finding well-trained staff and developing fruitful partnerships, what I quickly began to see is that this pandemic was significantly changing how business itself was being conducted. Doing business has evolved and changed to accommodate the difficult new reality in sometimes interesting, productive and noteworthy ways.
Business communication has changed fundamentally in Covid times. Gone are the face-to-face visits so common, and important, in business, with executives hopping on a plane whenever they wanted closer engagement with a major prospective client. This has overhauled the way we communicate, we no longer rely on longer, more open-ended, in-person meetings. Now, the goal is to impart carefully chosen information that is ‘right-sized’ for easy consumption by overtaxed managers and executives.
Digitally driven meetings are now standard for us, our clients and most of the business world, of course. However, one thing that hasn't changed is the need to achieve quality engagements, which are an outgrowth of the trusting, productive personal relationships that we at IDA have long championed and which are now so key to move companies forward when they don't have the benefit of meeting in person.
The virus hasn't impacted all industries equally. We've all read about the issues in the travel and aviation sector but from what we've seen among our U.S. clients, some sectors are actually thriving, such as Pharma and Medical Technologies.. Not surprisingly, the whole digital space is moving forward rapidly given how important virtual communication has become to business, boosting related areas like cybersecurity and cloud computing. In fact, a lasting and positive result of Covid will be a greater shared future of sophisticated digitization in most, if not all, sectors.
One of the most difficult aspects of managing businesses through such a huge global crisis is what happens to workers when demand falls. IDA Ireland is fortunate to have many quality government and university funded training programs in Ireland, with our American clients tapping into these resources rather than reducing headcounts. This is a smart approach as many of our clients implement advanced training initiatives among idled staff geared toward their specific industries to engage and prepare workers for future processes and equipment.
For most of the world, the pandemic seems like it's been here forever at this point but many of our U.S. clients are actively planning for a post-pandemic world. Getting past the everyday impact of the coronavirus on business functioning will bring relief but also challenges because scaling up quickly can be difficult as companies must reiterate their supply chains, increase production in seamless fashion, and implement new processes By designing the future now, we believe these forward-looking companies will be in a strong position to safely expand their business in 2021.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly thrown the world an unexpected curve ball, we at IDA Ireland can see better times ahead in 2021 for the many creative, data-driven American firms operating in Ireland. Not only will their businesses return to the growth paths predicted in the new year -- we see them using what they've learned from navigating the Covid challenges in ways that make them stronger, more resilient and willing to go in innovative new directions.
You'll find us responsive to your needs, proactive, professional and willing to go the extra mile.
We have 28 Offices worldwide helping support companies expand their operations in Ireland.