US Business in Ireland: Creating an Island of Talent

Barry O'Sullivan

President, American Chamber of Commerce Ireland

As president of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, I am keenly aware of the challenges and opportunities facing Ireland’s FDI base in 2018.

It has never been a more important time to confront the tough questions we face in a changing global landscape: What must be done to retain and attract more FDI jobs?

What can we do to ensure Ireland doesn’t lose its hard-won reputation as a great country for inward investment? The good news is that the two-way US-Ireland business relationship stands at an all-time high — in both directions.

But a more important message is that the global competition for FDI has never been more fierce than it is today. Announcements last year such as Janssen Sciences’ €300m investment in its Ringaskiddy facility or Northern Trust increasing its Limerick workforce by 400 reminds us that US companies are consistently providing opportunities for people to develop rewarding careers.

Today, over 700 US companies have Irish operations, directly employing almost 160,000 people and indirectly supporting a further 100,000 jobs.

Outside of Dublin, approximately 75,000 people in every county in Ireland are working for a US company.

Our ability to attract such strong levels of inward investment rely on a number of constant factors: Tax and business flexibility; a commitment to education that has paid huge dividends to date; our world class third level institutions which consistently turn out highly educated graduates equipped to take up career opportunities throughout Ireland; and a new emphasis on STEM and lifelong learning.

Ireland, I believe, can and should become an Island of Talent at the centre of the world. We have strong foundations — a famous community of native talent and the tens of thousands of people who have come from all over the world to proudly call Ireland home. We are more global, broader in our thinking and more inclusive than ever before.

The changing faces of Ireland and the Irish are transforming our society: One out of every six children born today in Ireland is born to non-Irish parents.

Our global impact was felt on a warm May day in 2015 when we became the first country in the world to vote for marriage equality by popular vote.

In my view, continuing to embrace inclusion is the right pathway forward.

From a business perspective, it makes sense that serving global markets successfully means we must do so with a global mindset that makes everyone feel truly “at home” and respected here.

A key perspective I have learned in business is that to compete successfully, you need two things: Speed and agility.

You must not be afraid to take risks from fear of failure.

It is critical that Ireland takes this approach in relation to its digital and crucially its physical infrastructure.

Some example of issues identified through the Chamber’s advocacy work include the Cork outer ring road, the N20 Croom-Mallow upgrade, the N21 Ballyvourney-Macroom bypass, and effort to place the M20 link with Limerick on a planning foothold.

These are vital projects for improving access to Ringaskiddy and the series of projects identified to compete and enhance the flow of traffic around Cork City. By keeping a laser-like focus on the competitiveness indicators within our control, we make ourselves better able to compete for new opportunities as they emerge. Inward investment from the United States matters and should be celebrated.

Our members make up around 20% of employment in this country, including the additional jobs created by innovative Irish to US FDI companies. US companies here are working at the cutting edge of their fields on products and services that are enhancing lives across the world. Collectively, the total value of US business investment is worth over $387bn (€312bn) to the Irish economy.

In 2018, the Chamber looks forward to working successfully with the Government and state agencies in the battle to win new investment. Ireland is in a unique position at the heart of the EU-US relationship — soon to be the only English-speaking member of the EU; perfectly positioned in the global time-zone spectrum; with a diverse multinational workforce. We must make the most of the opportunities a post-Brexit world presents.Now is the time to double down our efforts to welcome tomorrow’s waves of inward investment.

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