Featured Article 23 May 2012

May 23rd 2012


Such is the strength of Ireland as a location for multinationals that all ten of the biggest online companies – including Google, Facebook, Amazon and eBay – have major operations in the country. Add to this nine out of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies and a great range of other corporations: Ireland is clearly an attractive destination for business, as Barry O’Leary, chief executive of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) explains.

“Companies come to Ireland for the talent pool, the tax advantages, the technical capabilities, ease of doing business and the strong industrial clusters. In the past six months we have had €1.2 billion in inward investments in the biotech sector alone.” O’Leary points to a new 240,000 square foot facility currently under construction by US pharma giant Lilly. “We have an outstanding history in life sciences,” says O’Leary. “If these companies have a malfunction, it can be very costly for them. We have an impeccable record.” Fellow US pharmaceutical giants Abbot and Allergan have also invested in Ireland. The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) conducts research projects and forms partnerships with multinational corporations, helping to support the many thousands of jobs which depend on the sector. Altogether, one in six Irish employees work for multinationals and the companies pay two-thirds of all corporation tax.

Ireland: A global Hub for Business
Staff costs are now highly competitive
, compared to elsewhere in Europe, according to O’Leary. “Since 2008, salary levels have fallen by around 8 per cent, while other European countries’ have risen by the same amount,” he says. This has created a 15 per cent competitive advantage. Drawn by the increasing presence of multinationals, dozens of smaller companies are relocating to Ireland, says O’Leary. “Since the beginning of 2010 we’ve had more than 35 smaller companies opening offices here. Overall we’ve had more than €7 billion in ‘mobile’ investment [i.e. inward investment which could have gone elsewhere, excluding M&A].”Such figures are impressive, for a country with a population of just 4.5 million. “The total for 2011 was the best in the past 10 years,” says O’Leary, citing Mastercard, Hewlett Packard and Accenture among the companies extending their operations. Visits from President Obama, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and the Chinese vice president helped to send a positive message to potential investors.

“From 2008 until 2011, the Ireland brand was under pressure, because media commentary was negative,” O’Leary admits. A new sense of buoyancy and economic growth has now emerged: the IDA has opened offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Shanghai (among others), to capitalise on this positive mood.

Based on the extensive presence of both IT and life science companies, O’Leary foresees an exciting future for both sectors. “We will do very well in these areas,” he predicts. “The speed of change is phenomenal. Ireland is well on track to prosper as a global hub for business and innovation.”

As Ireland continues to attract the world’s largest multinationals with interest from emerging economic blocks such as China, Barry O’Leary believes it’s firmly positioning itself as a global hub for business.


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