While the headlines might be dominated by huge investments in the Dublin region by tech giants like Facebook, Google and Intel, the fact remains that regional Ireland still has much to offer when it comes to talent availability, business environment and quality of life.
"The region beyond the M50 has an awful lot to offer," says Mairead Connolly, tax partner, PwC mid-west. "There is a wealth of industry and talent in Dublin but it's white hot there now and there is huge pressure in terms of talent availability and so on. The regions can offer a lot into the future in terms of capacity and we have seen some major announcement in the last 12 months, particularly in the pharma and technology sectors."
She mentions US company Edwards Life Sciences, which is investing €80 million and creating 600 jobs in Limerick, as an example of one of these announcements. "We are also seeing existing companies such as Johnson & Johnson in Limerick and Biomarin in Cork put more jobs into the regions. This is an endorsement of a regional location and these companies are voting with their cheque books."
It’s not only major companies which are investing in the regions. “We are also getting quirky, innovative companies setting up outside of Dublin,” says Connolly.
“Rent the Runway is a fashion rental portal and it is creating 150 jobs in Galway. The Knot Worldwide, an online wedding planning platform, is to create 100 jobs in Galway. The latest statistics say that 56 per cent of new FDI jobs are outside Dublin. In fairness, the IDA has done a huge amount to redress the balance.”
The Cork region has proven very attractive for US FDI companies over the years. "If you go back in time, the traditional multinational sector in Ireland was dominated by life sciences and technology companies and we have a very strong base of those companies here in the Cork region," says Caroline O'Driscoll, corporate and international partner with Deloitte.
"Apple, the strongest company in the world, employs 6,000 people here, for example."
The last number of years has seen growth in the cyber and data analytics areas, with investments by companies such as VM Ware and Dell EMC in the region. “In the last five years or so, we have seen a lot of emerging technology companies from the US putting their toe in the water in Europe for the first time and Cork has performed very well in attracting those investments,” O’Driscoll adds.
One distinct advantage Cork possesses is the growth of clusters in sectors like pharma and technology in the region. "We have a critical mass in life sciences with GSK, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Gilead, Stryker and many others here," says Connolly.
“Many of them have added research and development and global business service centres to their operations here as well.
“When you start creating clusters like this, they act as magnets which attract other firms to follow,” she continues.
“We are seeing the same happen in cyber. It’s a virtuous circle where the universities put on the courses to meet the needs of the companies, other companies are attracted in by the supply of talent and the success of the companies already here, and the cycle continues.”
Waterford is also proving to be attractive to FDI, according to Mark Hennessy, site leader, Bausch & Lomb, Waterford.
‘Attracting top talent’
“Waterford and the region is attracting top talent and a recent survey found that the reason the region was attracting highly qualified people was that there is a better quality of life here; better career opportunities; the cost of living is lower; there is less traffic; lower property prices; they are closer to family and friends; and they enjoy a safer environment.”
And Sligo demonstrated a number of advantages when attracting intelligent workplace solutions company LiveTiles to locate there, according to Elaine Murphy, general manager of LiveTiles Ireland.
“After our co-founders, Karl and Pete, met representatives from industry, academia, Government agencies such as the IDA and Sligo residents from a myriad of walks of life, they knew it would be somewhere they could thrive and add value. They didn’t dwell on the fact that it wasn’t an existing hub for AI talent and instead focused on the role LiveTiles could play in ensuring Sligo could attract and retain grade A talent in the tech arena.”
"What makes Ireland attractive to investors – our talented people, attractive business environment and commitment to the EU – is not unique to Dublin," says Anna Scally, partner and fintech lead with KPMG in Ireland. "Equally, not all businesses need an urban environment to thrive and there are lots of examples of clusters of sectors which have found homes and grown significantly outside of Dublin like the medtech sector in the west of Ireland. With space in Dublin at a premium, it makes sense for investors to look outside of our capital for more cost-effective bases of operation that still keep all the other aspects of what makes Ireland a great country to live and work in."