IDA regional manager for the south-west, Ray O’Connor, told attendees at the Sales Institute’s business breakfast in Cork College of Commerce that there was not enough residential or commercial office space available for Cork if it was to utilise opportunities from foreign investment.
He pinpointed Cork’s Docklands as the next great area of investment and opportunity in the city.
“We need to fast-track what is being done. We know that companies want rich, vibrant city centres. The Docklands is a fantastic opportunity. It is a huge resource. We need to be that ambitious to create more foreign direct investment (FDI),” he said.
Mr O’Connor suggested a light rail network like Dublin’s Luas as a potential game-changer for attracting investment from abroad.
He also emphasised the importance of highlighting Cork as having 500,000 people to investors instead of the much lower official figure within the city centre environs.
The decision of major global companies to stay put in the Cork region following the financial crash of 2008 gave the region confidence, Mr O’Connor said.
Consequently, FDI jobs have increased every year since 2009.
Cork City Council strategic planning and economic development director Pat Ledwidge said Cork needed to stop thinking of itself as competing with Dublin, Limerick or Galway, but had to take on second cities in other European countries.
He said the Cork brand had to emphasise local and global talent, how welcoming it was, its ease of access, connectivity and opportunities for networking.
EMC Dell boss in Ireland, Bob Savage, said Cork and Ireland would remain “absolutely central” to the global giant’s plans in the future.
He said that people in Cork realised it was a wonderful place to work and live and that companies like Dell EMC were getting multilingual talent, political stability, a workable timezone, and the best people. However he cautioned Cork could never rest on its laurels.
“Never assume people know about Cork. Selling that message is hugely important,” he said.
President of CIT, Brendan Murphy, said considering 52% of Irish 25 to 34-year-olds had third-level qualifications, Ireland was “miles ahead” of the OECD average.
He said 20% of new FDI into Ireland in 2016 was from the Asia Pacific region, while China had a target of €750bn to be invested abroad — “a significant opportunity for Cork”.