Ireland’s critical role as a bridge for US firms into EMEA markets – Irish Examiner

Mark Redmond, CEO of American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, says Ireland saw some US multinationals expand operations on our shores in 2021 despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic

Business links between Ireland and the United States grew in strength and stature in 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, but we must not rest on our laurels as the competition for inward investment is about to heat up.

Ireland has proven itself to be a strong and safe location for US investment, making it the ideal transatlantic gateway from which US companies can access the European, Middle East and African markets.

The IDA’s 2021 report, published in December, revealed that last year saw the highest ever employment creation figures from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in a single year in Ireland.

Investment from North America made up 64% of FDI investment in 2021.

As well as this, figures from the Department of Finance show corporate tax receipts at €15.3bn in 2021, up almost 30% from 2020.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s performance to combat the Covid-19 pandemic has also cemented its place at the very forefront of US investment considerations.

Despite having 0.06% of the world’s population, Ireland has been the fifth largest supplier of Covid-19 related products throughout this pandemic, keeping supply chains open and, in some cases, increasing productivity in the face of a global crisis.

“In the context of the pandemic, the growth Ireland has seen in terms of investment has been an impressive result,” said Mark Redmond, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.

“In the southwest region, we’ve seen phenomenal contributions from employers like Pfizer, for example, in relation to the global pandemic response.

“Even in the worst part of the pandemic, those critically important supply chains in med-tech and biopharma based in Ireland not only maintained production, some actually increased production.

“That’s been seen in the US and Ireland as a really trusted partner by the US.”

A 2021 survey carried out by the American Chamber revealed that 80% of Irish residents were proud of the contribution of Irish-based US multinationals in response to the pandemic.

“That performance by the women and men employed by US multinationals here in Ireland is having a very positive impact on US-Irish relations,” said Mr Redmond.

As well as helping in the fight against Covid-19, large Irish-based companies are also leading the charge in terms of sustainability.

In July last year, Taoiseach Micheál Martin opened the single largest solar farm in the Republic of Ireland.

Developed in a joint venture by Eli Lilly and Enerpower, the 16-acre facility features 12,600 individual solar panels and cost €5m, and is now powering a significant proportion of the Lilly plant at its Dunderrow site with sustainable energy.

“That sends an extraordinary statement about Ireland’s commitment on a global stage, in particular businesses in Ireland, in relation to sustainability,” said Mr Redmond.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, Ireland saw some US multinationals expand operations on our shores in 2021.

In September last year, Boston Scientific announced a €30m investment in its Cork facility to accelerate the development and manufacturing of minimally-invasive medical technologies that treat patients suffering from cancer and peripheral arterial diseases around the world.

This investment, supported by the IDA, is expected to generate more than 70 new quality, engineering and production jobs over the next three years.

Similarly, Stryker is in the middle of ongoing expansion following an announcement in 2019 of a €200m investment in projects at three of its five Cork facilities.

“We’re seeing really big employers expanding operations in spite of all the uncertainty in terms of global affairs, and that illustrates a very strong position,” remarked Mr Redmond.

As well as continuing to see investment from US firms in Ireland in 2021, Ireland is also continuing to see its fair share of companies investing in the US market last year.

Towards the end of last year, Skibbereen-based telecoms company, Spearline, announced plans to open a US office in Silicon Valley this year.

Another Cork-based company, Wisetek, has seen rapid overseas growth in recent years, particularly in the US market.

Ireland is the ninth biggest investor in the US, and this did not slow down during the pandemic, Mr Redmond explained.

Looking to the year ahead, the American Chamber is confident of seeing continued investment on both sides of the Atlantic. A recent Chamber survey found that 94% of US corporate headquarters that have existing operations in Ireland are keen to expand them.

“We’ve never seen the level of ambition for Ireland that we’re seeing right now in terms of our member companies,” remarked Mr Redmond.

Physical and digital developments must keep pace with US company expansions and investment to ensure Ireland remains an attractive prospect for investment as well as growing indigenous businesses.

The American Chamber highlighted the importance of ensuring that infrastructural developments, such as the Cork-Limerick motorway, Ringaskiddy route and Port of Cork gather pace, while the need for increased transatlantic air access to the west coast of Ireland has also been highlighted.

Meanwhile, the need for a speedy rollout of national broadband is also a major necessity “to ensure that businesses, both large and small, have access to proficient broadband”, and that Ireland highlights itself as a “centre of digital excellence”. The American Chamber also highlighted the importance of continued investment and vision in terms of research and education here in Ireland, particularly in the southwest, where universities such as MTU and UCC can lead the way.

“We need to make sure that the physical and digital infrastructure keeps pace with the expansion we’re seeing in both multinational and domestic Irish business,” said Mr Redmond.

“We also see the need for smart investment, particularly in research and education. Broadband rollout, meanwhile, will be crucial in terms of facilitating the future of working, that hybrid model, which will allow people to live where they want,” he added.

In the wake of Brexit, Ireland must seize the “massive opportunity” afforded to it by being the only mainly-English speaking gateway to Europe.

The European Union remains the most important market for the US, in terms of the spending power and the scale of that market.

“Ireland has an impressive track record of success for US multinationals in Ireland in terms of facilitating access to that market, as well as the Middle East, Africa,” said Mr Redmond.

“We are seeing massive amounts of opportunity for Ireland to be that transatlantic bridge that offers the US companies the access they need to the EU, Middle East and Africa.”

However, as the world comes to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic and looks to the future, the competition for inward investment is set to heat up significantly.

“The continued strength of the Irish economy and businesses across the country, even in the face of the pandemic, has helped in maintaining strong US business links,” said Mr Redmond.

“The Irish Government has also been seen as doing a very good job in terms of attracting inward investment, particularly in the form of the IDA.

“However, we expect the competition for inward investment over the next year to be more intensive than it ever has been, so we cannot rest on our laurels.”

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