As president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland in 2019, I am keenly aware of the challenges facing Ireland to protect our hard-won reputation as a location of choice for US investment.
What can be done to keep Ireland attractive for US investment as ongoing tensions cause global trading blocks to drift? How can we keep the amazing talent pool already based here growing in the long term? What do we need to do to attract more talent and investment to come to Ireland?
We are fortunate that 2019 continues to be another red-letter year for investment from the US. Recent announcements in my own base of Galway and the wider west and north-west region include those such as Rent the Runway planning to hire 150 engineers and tech developers. Well-established companies around the country continue to expand such as Johnson & Johnson that will invest €100 million in its Limerick facility and Stryker, which is investing €200 million in R&D projects in Cork.
Meanwhile, Dublin’s ‘Silicon Docks’ reputation continues to rise, with recent announcements by LogMeIn, which will create 200 Jobs in Grand Canal while online recruiter Indeed has added an additional 600 new jobs at the newly opened Capital Dock HQ building.
Most notable trend
But perhaps the most notable trend of all is the growing number of US firms in Ireland celebrating significant company milestones in 2019 – Boston Scientific celebrates 25 years in Galway, BD Medical celebrates 40 years in Dún Laoghaire. Meanwhile, Pfizer celebrates 50 years in Cork.
Total US investment in Ireland now stands at $446 billion, with well over a quarter of a million people in Ireland now employed directly and indirectly by more than 700 American companies.
Going in the other direction are Irish companies taking part in America's economic boom. These include companies like Linesight, Applegreen, Netwatch and Spearline – part of the 800 Irish companies now employing more than 100,000 people across the US. Ireland is now the ninth largest investor in the United States.
We count our good fortune but this success story did not happen accidentally, nor overnight. It is the result of decades of foresight and smart decision-makers, strong ability of Irish workforces to deliver on promises made, and a relentless focus on innovation and constantly moving up the value chain.
A number of factors have underpinned our approach – the ease of doing business here, our certain legislative and tax regime, our business flexibility. An investment made decades ago to educate our young people to the third level that has paid us back with interest.
But what now for the future? We must ensure Ireland is enabled to seize the opportunities that present themselves in the third decade of the 21st century. We must be ready for new technologies that are here already including artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, transforming our working and home lives. We must ensure we continue to focus on the areas within our control to provide a good quality of life to those who want to base themselves here. This includes our housing, transport, our physical and digital infrastructure, as well as our cultural and educational amenities.
While the headlines in recent years read of investment in both directions being at an “all-time high”, we must never take this for granted. However, I remain extremely confident that AmCham members working along with State agencies and Government departments will face difficult questions head-on.