The south-west’s foreign direct investment chief has warned there is no guarantee the competitiveness regained during the recession will be protected as the economy begins to recover.
One of the few positives of the downturn was that the cost of doing business fell and in doing so made Ireland a more favourable location for attracting investment.
IDA Ireland South-West regional manager Ray O’Connor warned against complacency as the economy picks up, saying that a repeat of the mistakes of the past would see us jeopardise that progress by “pricing ourselves out of the market”.
“Competitiveness is critically important for Ireland,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We’ve seen that by making ourselves uncompetitive what it’s done to the country in terms of how attractive we are.
“The downturn we went through resulted in improved competitiveness: property solutions that were available were lower cost, service providers were cheaper [and] salary expectations totally changed over the period of two or three years.
"That really became a strong value proposition for us to sell to other companies in terms of attracting them in here.”
Mr O’Connor made the remarks at a Cork City Council briefing event ahead of the fDi Forum 2015 in London next Thursday.
The event, which will feature a strong Cork delegation, including representatives from successful indigenous and FDI companies such as Teamwork.com, O’Callaghan Properties, Voxpro, Tyco, Cork Chamber, Cork City Council, and former Munster and New Zealand rugby star Doug Howlett, who will act as the city’s ambassador at the event.
While competitiveness is crucial to underpinning economic recovery across the country, regions like Cork should look to appeal to prospective investors in a much wider manner, Mr O’Connor said.
The skills on offer from the city’s highly educated workforce and the track record of companies that have grown in the region should be the region’s main calling cards, he said, adding that the cluster of companies that has developed is a unique selling point that should also be leveraged at next week’s event.
“I don’t think costs alone is the way to compete because there will always be other lower cost locations,” said Mr O’Connor.
“Ireland competes with many other companies for investment and even across Europe, there’s a lot of cities competing for that investment as well. We have something unique here to offer in Cork in terms of the track record of companies we have.
“We have fantastic clusters and all those companies that are here and growing and expanding are really here because of skills. Rather than just focusing on costs, skills is a key differentiator. The fact that there’s a track record here gives confidence to companies to come here as well.”
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