By Pádraig Hoare
Cork is primed to “capture future waves of foreign direct investment” but must improve its infrastructure to combat fierce competition from abroad.
That was the message from American Chamber of Commerce Ireland president Barry O’Sullivan at the organisation’s annual Cork Business Lunch, as he pointed to better broadband and physical infrastructure such as the M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick as key to the region’s growth.
Speaking to more than 350 guests from American companies and Cork businesses at the Maryborough Hotel, Mr O’Sullivan said: “We have never seen the competition for US business investment from other regions of the world as intense as it is today.
“It is essential that we constantly benchmark our competitiveness against the countries that currently compete with us — our international competitiveness ranking and our falling global university rankings need serious attention.
“Uncertain timescales and delays in planning decisions for key projects do us no favours.
"From solving the housing crisis to roll out of our National Broadband Plan, these are all things largely within our control — getting things done is supposed to be part and parcel of our global reputation.”
He said Cork’s “physical and digital capacity” including broadband still needs significant improvements, while upgrading the N28 route to Ringaskiddy was an essential piece of infrastructure for our member companies.
The upgraded M20 Cork-Limerick route will be critical to connect and unlock further economic activity in the south and mid-west regions between Cork and Limerick, Mr O’Sullivan said.
Broadband was as essential as electrification, according to Mr O’Sullivan.
“Speed is our friend. If the generations that came before us could deliver Ardnacrusha and rural electrification with a fraction of the resources and talent that we have at our disposal today — surely, surely, we can execute the critical infrastructure we need to future proof our economy and society for the generations that will succeed us.”
There are now more than 32,000 people working at over 150 multinationals in a range of sectors from med-tech, to pharmaceuticals, gaming and cyber-security, says the American Chamber.
Guest speaker, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said by any objective measure, “this is a deeply challenging moment not just for Ireland but also for Europe and the wider world”.
“We all need to work together to ensure the progress made so far between our two great countries continues,” Mr Martin said.