The FDI effect: helping homegrown business thrive
FDI plays a central role in the success of business here, and also contributes massively to the local economy
Already employing close to 1,800 staff, Voxpro's numbers are growing and they expect to see the figures increase significantly in the next few years.
The impact of FDI on indigenous Irish firms cannot be underestimated. Many rely greatly, if not solely, on foreign investment and multinational companies in Ireland in order for their own businesses to succeed and thrive.
We spoke to three Irish firms who work with FDI that told us of the benefits, not only to them but also to the Irish economy – with job-creation at the forefront.
Cork and Dublin
Technology outsourcing company Voxpro was founded 20 years ago by husband-and-wife management team Dan and Linda Kiely. Starting out over a pub with only six employees, the business has grown to employ 1,800 people, with campuses at Mahon in Cork and a new campus at Silicon Docks in Dublin.
The Kielys sold the business to Canadian call-centre giant Telus last year for an undisclosed sum, but the deal is thought to have been worth close to €150 million.
Dan Kiely, who has stayed on as CEO of the company, says the success of the business is predominantly down to its work with FDI.
“I can’t emphasise enough how important FDI is to Voxpro. We have two centres, one in Silicon Docks, one in Mahon in Cork and I really believe the close proximity for our partners, such as Airbnb and Google, is a huge plus for them. They can actually walk from their offices to ours and that’s a massive thing. They don’t have to get on planes. We’re on their doorstep.
“If you look at Airbnb, they employ 600 people in Ireland. But the reality is, we have 1,000 people based in our Mahon campus that are working directly with Airbnb. That doesn’t get reported enough – the number of jobs these companies actually create in Ireland. It’s the same with Stripe, Google and all of those big iconic global brands that have a presence in Ireland.”
Voxpro has successfully pivoted on half a dozen occasions, going from pagers (cutting-edge technology 20 years ago) to a global tech outsourcing company delivering “beautiful customer experiences”.
“We work with companies that believe the customer experience is as unique as their own IP product or service and they see the customer experience as a way to scale their company globally by delivering beautiful customer experiences. We operate in 27 different languages across four continents and our pipeline for 2018, in terms of FDIs that have not worked with us before, has never been stronger.”
Kiely says while FDIs play a central role in the success of his business, they also contribute massively to the local economies. “Bars and restaurants in Dublin and Cork are full on any given night and that is down to FDIs and indigenous Irish businesses as well. It has played a huge part in the economic recovery of this country, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”
Employing close to 1,800 staff, those numbers are growing and Kiely expects to see the figures increase significantly in the next few years. The company also has offices in San Francisco and Kiely says this also works to Ireland’s advantage. They are happy to make introductions between the IDA and any US company that is eager to set up EMEA headquarters here.
“It’s a reciprocal arrangement. You have to give something back,” he says.
Asgard Cleanrooms, based in Kilkenny, is a leader in biotech cleanroom design for the biopharma and pharma sectors.
Set up 18 years ago by John Comerford, the company has built cleanrooms for, among others, Pfizer, MSD, GSK and Eirgen, with its biggest project for BMS last year. Comerford says 95 per cent of its business comes from FDIs.
“We gradually grew our business and last year we built the largest biotech facility in Europe, in Dublin 15. We’ve had several export opportunities as a result of our work with FDIs; when they see the quality of our work and what we can do here, we end up doing similar projects abroad for them,” he says.
Ireland has been the main hub for biotech and pharmaceutical development in Europe in recent years, making it a huge success story for this country. “We as a pharma and biotech company provide services to those industries, so without the FDI we would be non-existent, or a very small company employing way less people,” he says.
Currently, the company employ 180 staff but this looks set to grow by 100 in the near future.
“We recently purchased a 120sq ft factory in Castlecomer and we’re going to set up a manufacturing facility there which will make modular cleanrooms for the pharma and biotech industries. Those cleanrooms will go across the world. It’s at an early stage but we have started to recruit,” he says.
Comerford says FDI clients can be “difficult” as they have high expectations, but he adds that this is no bad thing.
“They have brought our company up to a very high level. They’ve helped us to establish a very high level of engineering within our company and as a result we’re now leading the way. We’re pricing jobs in Indonesia, Switzerland, Germany, the US and Africa as a result of FDI.
“I don’t believe we would have such a large business without them,” he says.
He is eager to point out that FDI companies are great to work with, adding, “your money is always guaranteed with them too”, something vital for any indigenous company trying to grow and succeed.
Set up in Cork in 1859 by John Sisk, John Sisk and Son has an annual turnover of
€1 billion and employs 1,500 staff directly and another 5,000 people indirectly.
Stephen Bowcott, managing director of Sisk, says that up to 50 per cent of its business comes from FDI – mainly in the pharmachemical, ICT and commercial sectors.
He says the demands of FDIs in all three sectors differ greatly but the challenge of meeting these demands helps maintain a high standard of quality throughout the supply chain in Ireland.
“With pharmachem, the standard of quality and safety is world class and that makes the supply chain in Ireland perform at the height of safety and quality, which really helps the whole industry. That’s quite powerful,” he says.
“With ICT we have to be incredibly flexible – the market is changing so rapidly and the demands of design are changing all the time so we have to be on the front foot with foreign investors. We have to have very flexible teams and flexible supply chains – the demands on staff can vary dramatically. With the commercial sector, generally they know what designs they want, built to quality and delivered on time. Therefore, the whole spectrum of processes in our construction business has to be at highest level to meet all those demands.
"This is great for our apprentices and young graduates – to have to move around the different sectors and learn from the demands of our different customers, which in turn is great for the future of the organisation,” he says.
Bowcott says with so much FDI coming into the country, there is pressure on executive accommodation in Ireland, with much more needed.
“There is also enormous pressure on international schooling: we have to build more schools. Also, if you look at the infrastructure, the Dart and M50 are full and Luas Cross City, which we just built, is full. If we do not put all of these things in place, FDIs are going to look at other alternatives in Europe, which would be detrimental to Ireland. We are brilliant at attracting it but we need to continue to do so,” he says.
“It’s great to see the economy doing well at the moment and it’s great to see the way the Government is looking to invest in housing infrastructure, which will support FDI into the future, I have no doubt.”
For more, visit idaireland.com