Tánaiste to tour Silicon Valley to reinforce investment momentum

13 Apr 2009

Ireland’s success in attracting top investments by Intel, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Facebook in the face of a global recession is being reinforced by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD, who is embarking on a tour of the US west coast this week.

The Tánaiste’s whirlwind tour that will take in stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, and will target companies primarily in the ICT and financial services sectors for investment and job creation.

Despite wrestling with the wider global economic crisis, as well as a tough budget at home to tackle a deficit – in addition to the questionable behaviour of banks and building developers – Ireland still remains a wealthy country and has world-class industries primed to keep the country growing.

Goldman Sachs International and BP chairman Peter Sutherland last week on RTE News said that despite the negative media reporting at home, Ireland’s budget decisions are being applauded in financial circles, and that now, more than ever, it is important to project a positive image of the country.

He pointed out that Ireland’s GDP per capita, if 100 was taken to be the EU average, was 135, ahead of Germany at 117, the UK at 114 and Japan at 107. While Irish exports are forecast to decline 5.9pc this year, this pales in comparison to declines of 16.5pc in Germany, 15.9pc in Italy and 9.8pc in the UK.

In recent months, Ireland has been successful in attracting substantial inward investment from giants such as Intel, which employs 5,000 people already in Ireland, and which is investing a further US$50m to create 134 jobs in Limerick.

HP, which employs over 4,000 people in Ireland, followed this up with a plan to create 500 jobs at a global services desk. The project has the potential to grow to 1,500 people in the coming years, sources say.

Other notable technology investments include Facebook, which is creating 70 jobs in Dublin, and Big Fish Games, which is creating 100 jobs in Cork.

Recent investments in R&D by players such as Helsinn, which is investing €13m, as well as a €3m investment in R&D by communications giant Cisco with NUI Galway’s DERI lab, highlight the growing cluster of R&D investments in Ireland. It is understood that 45pc of all of IDA Ireland investment wins last year were in R&D projects.

“Ireland is home to 464 US companies employing over 94,000 people, and the contribution made by companies from the US west coast cannot be underestimated, particularly in the ICT sector,” Minister Coughlan (pictured) said.

“Our continued funding commitment to research, development and innovation activities is a key pull factor that ensures they establish and maintain operations in Ireland as their preferred strategic location for Europe and the EMEA region.”

She said last week’s budget made provision for in excess of €500m for capital investment in enterprise. This is funding made available to companies both at home and abroad that are working to create and maintain jobs in Ireland. A significant portion of this funding is leveraged to attract overseas companies into Ireland to create jobs.

“By putting this level of resources in place last week, the Government prioritised investment in the most productive sectors of our economy, and has invested in the creation of jobs by cementing the foundation for export led recovery and growth.

“The message I will bring to US boardrooms this week is that Ireland is open for business, open for investment and open for job creation. This Government, through IDA Ireland, is committed to building on our already strong and productive relationships with companies that have established partnerships with Ireland and to creating new investment opportunities with potential investors.

“With the youngest population in Europe – over 40pc under the age of 25 – and an educational system ranked fifth in the world in the way it meets the needs of a competitive economy, Ireland’s unique workforce is a further key pull factor for US companies.

“In addition, Ireland’s low corporate tax rate and flexible work practices remain a bedrock for attracting foreign direct investment,” the Tánaiste concluded.

During her visit to the west coast, the Tánaiste will also present the Irish Technology Leaders Silicon Valley Awards 2009 at a function in Stanford University.

On completion of her visit to the west coast, the Tánaiste will travel to Washington DC for a series of bi-lateral and political meetings with key members of Congress and the US administration.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years