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Branching out: The businesses tapping into the regional advantage

Dublin will remain an international hub, but investors are increasingly looking outside the capital

“We have found great support from the IDA as well as support from the Clare and Limerick Councils.” Photograph: iStock

“We have found great support from the IDA as well as support from the Clare and Limerick Councils.” Photograph: iStock

 

While Dublin will always remain a hub for international business, it is certainly no longer the only location that international investors consider when looking to set up operations here. There are a multitude of reasons why extending beyond the larger cities makes sense for new business in Ireland, and for many it is becoming a more attractive and viable option.

“Having started my career in Dublin, there are huge positives to living and working in Dublin in terms of career development and learning and development opportunities along with the obvious social and entertainment side of life,” says Colm Browne, PwC tax director, midwest region.

After relocating to PwC’s Limerick office 10 years ago, Browne has experienced some of the benefits of living and working outside the capital first-hand. “The quality of life is certainly better,” he says. “There is less traffic, and housing is much more affordable and closer to your work. Access to schools is also much easier. The vast improvement in our road network has meant that it is very easy for me to be in Dublin for meetings and other events when needed.”

As well quality of life benefits for employees, the calibre of talent available, as well as a focus on regional development from Government, has made it more enticing for investors who are willing to go beyond the M50.

“There are a number of fantastic universities and other third-level institutions outside of Dublin which greatly enhances the pool of talent available across Ireland. In our recent graduate recruitment programme, we have seen a greater interest from college students seeking opportunities to work in the regional offices,” says Browne.

“From a business perspective, the Government and IDA (Industrial Development Authority) have shown a much stronger commitment to a more balanced regional development programme in recent years,” he says. “The addition of companies like Edwards Lifesciences and Jaguar Land Rover in the midwest, or Wuxi Biologics in the mideast, Neueda Technologies in the midlands, and Central Pharma in the southwest are all evidence of that. Companies like these across the regions of Ireland create huge employment opportunities.”

Figures from IDA Ireland show that 70 per cent of the total labour force in Ireland is living outside the main Dublin urban centre, with 75 per cent of third-level students also studying outside the capital. The latest IDA Ireland report also points to the lower commercial property rates outside of Dublin as key reasons to set up in regional areas.

“We have found great support from the IDA as well as support from the Clare and Limerick Councils,” says Nathan Tenzer, general plant manager at Edward Lifesciences. The company is the world leader in patient-focused medical innovations for structural heart disease.

“In Shannon, we are manufacturing a number of incredible technologies to repair and replace damaged heart valves. Only a year after moving in we are now in commercial production on our first two production lines, and we have 80 employees,” says Tenzer. “Meanwhile, in Limerick, we broke ground on our new purpose built facility which will be operational in 2020 and see our headcount increase to 600 employees.”

The right people

With more than 300 MedTech companies established in Ireland, one of the key draws for Edwards Lifesciences was to get access to the right people according to Tenzer.

“The primary benefit to operating in Clare is the access to the amazing people that live in and around Clare who are pursuing careers in life sciences,” he says. “We came to Ireland hoping to find people who were as passionate about saving lives as we were and we could not be more impressed with the people who have joined the team.

“Unfortunately, Edwards is not the only company that knows how amazing the people are here in the midwest so there is strong competition for attracting employees,” says Tenzer. “We do see a fair amount of people that are looking to come back to the region or are ready to take advantage of the lower cost of living. We do have several that have relocated from Dublin, but most of our employees are already located nearby.”

While manufacturing companies tend to be drawn to the midwest and southwest, other firms are seeing the benefit of expanding their business outside of Dublin. Top-15 global law firm Eversheds Sutherland has a long history in Dublin, but broadened its reach to Belfast in recent years.

“Our Irish practice celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, and our Belfast practice opened its doors in the heart of the city in 2015,” says Alan Murphy, managing partner of Eversheds Sutherland Ireland and deputy chairman of Eversheds Sutherland Europe. “The success of our Belfast office has been fantastic in such a short space of time. It has allowed us to invest in great people to meet the demands for our services. We have a real foothold in the city, reflected in the growth of our team and our revenue.”

With 66 offices in 32 countries, the firm saw an expansion to Belfast as a way to broaden its offerings to clients across the island of Ireland as well as to expand its offering to clients looking to move to Ireland. “Our new Belfast office has enabled us to leverage off the considerable talent pool that exists in Northern Ireland. It also enables us to provide a ‘two Island offering’ across the UK and Ireland,” says Murphy, who has worked closely with many international companies seeking to relocate in the run up to Brexit.

“We have advised many companies on this and we believe even more clients will need advice in the short to medium term around their operating models, corporate structures, data protection, and cross-border trading relationships,” he says.

“With the growing number of US firms, the island of Ireland remains the location of choice for US investment owing to our legislative and tax regime and business flexibility. We pride ourselves on offering a superior professional advice to our clients making it easier for them to do business here.”