‘Attracting overseas firms is nearly over’

The days of Ireland attracting foreign direct investment are coming to an end, according to the retired Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, who created 6,000 jobs with the stroke of a pen in 1989.

Mr Barrett, who was in Cork attending the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG), said Ireland now needs to concentrate on fostering its own industries.

“You can’t fault the country for trying to be a good place for FDI, but you can say with some certainty that FDI in the future will be more difficult to obtain, therefore you need to do your own growing.

“That is with the universities becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial, the angel investors, venture capital money becoming available to drive the economy,” said Mr Barrett.

Four years ago Mr Barrett was one of the business leaders invited to a think tank to try and resuscitate the moribund Irish economy. He pulled no punches.

He claimed that of the 14 reasons why he had brought the world-leading chip manufacturer to Ireland, only one, the corporate tax rate, remained.

“The speech in Farmleigh was a wake-up call to Ireland. A lot has happened in the 20 years since Intel located here.

“From a global perspective, we’ve effectively had three billion new capitalists come into the economic system.

“That is probably the biggest economic change in the history of mankind — China, India, Russia and some of the Latin American countries joined the free economic system.

“This meant there was a new sense of competition in the world. So my comments in Farmleigh were to tell the Irish people that things have changed, there is more competition,” he said.

“There has been a global shift to emerging economies that has meant that Ireland has to try and compete with educated workforces in parts of the world where labour costs are a fraction of what they are in the west.

“Where is Intel’s most recent greenfield establishment? It is in Dalian, China. Intel has put a major manufacturing facility into China, but that merely complements what Intel already has.

“The global shift is happening, 20 years ago there wasn’t a market in China and there wasn’t a need for a manufacturing presence there, today there is,” he said.

The future for any country that wants to provide a comfortable standard of living is in high-end, value-added manufacturing, he said.

“The future for countries like Ireland and the US is not so much to do a ton of manufacturing.

“You are going to have your workforce use their brains and add value to what they do.

“The likes of what EMC are doing in Cork and what Intel does in Leixlip — the very high-end value manufacturing — those are the kind of things that Ireland can do,” he said.

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