Upbeat IDA confident of meeting ambitious target


FOR IDA Ireland, 1996 will be a hard act to follow. But in terms of job creation, 1997 has already begun. This week Allied Signal, a US company, announced it would create 150 new jobs in Waterford.

It is a first step on the road towards the goal of surpassing the 1996 figure of 13,180 new jobs. The target for 1997 is 14,000. The agency has reason to be confident that this can be achieved. It points out that a number of prestigious projects announced last year will provide a welcome boost as jobs begin to come onstream.

IDA Ireland is also targeting the top 100 companies at the International Financial Services Centre, to try to persuade them to locate other ancillary projects here. The agency's reasoning is that if a company is already performing well in Ireland, it helps in the argument to convince the multi-national to invest further.

Expanding exiting multi-national operation here is also an important goal. Mr Kieran McGowan, IDA Ireland chief executive, has called on the managers of Irish companies to lobby their multinational parents as part of a strategy to further embed those companies here.

Good examples of how this can work include IBM, which will create almost 3,000 jobs here over the next five years.

The parent company was very impressed by the speed with which a new tele-services centre was established in Blanchardstown and this helped significantly in negotiating the new project for Mulhuddart.

"Despite what people may think, we are not as bureaucratic as bigger countries and companies find it easier to gain access to officials and Ministers here," Mr McGowan says.

IDA Ireland is keen to emphasise the key role overseas industry plays in the economy. Ireland now plays host to leading world names such as Intel, Gateway 2000, Eastman Kodak, Hertz, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard and US multi-nationals in particular are major players in job creation.

Foreign-owned companies exported £12.6 billion worth of goods last year (up from £10 billion in 1994) and spent £4.4 billion in the Irish economy. The companies account for around 15 per cent of GNP and last Year paid more than £450 million in tax.

IDA Ireland's strategy this year will include targeting Japanese companies such as Toshiba and recontacting semiconductor manufacturers including Texas Instruments. Last year the semiconductor market went into decline, but it is expected to pick up in the second half of the year.

If the momentum is to be maintained, IDA Ireland will also need a little luck. Worldwide industry trends are crucial and a slump in any of the sectors the agency targets could cause those companies planning to recruit in Ireland to revise their projections.

There is also the permanent problem of increasing competition from other countries which offer very competitive packages. Regions of Britain are fast emerging as competitors to Ireland. The privatised utilities are clubbing together to offer complete packages including cheap energy and telecommunications services.

However, IDA Ireland says that in telecommunications, for example, bulk discounts offered by Telecom Eireann to heavy multi-national users, have efforts to win projects

Winning projects involves several other factors - the 10 per cent corporation tax rate, the high skills level in the workforce and its flexibility and adaptability.

Mr McGowan stressed yesterday that these elements must remain in place for future success.