FDI - Ireland’s 50 year overnight success story


Ireland competes every day for international capital that can go anywhere. This is really competitive. It requires constant analysis and Ireland and its approach to attracting FDI is best in class.

I see FDI as the real 50 year overnight success story. And Ireland was doing FDI right from the foundation of the state. In 1931 and 1932 the world was moving towards protectionism, Ireland was one of the only remaining examples of an open economy. Pre De Valera, Ireland was incredibly open. Then in the late 60s Lemass (Irish Prime Minister at that time) kicked this off again. Ireland started offering free education and then this continued with the overseas graduate sponsorship scheme. So when Intel were looking in 1989 for a place to build a manufacturing base Ireland had a base of well qualified young people around the world with international education and management experience to draw upon. We were an English speaking country, business friendly. 

Why do companies ultimately choose Ireland?

Here is why Ireland wins at attracting FDI. We have a consistent and dependable business structure. So companies who invest in Ireland can make decisions based on this stability. Ireland has a multi-year system. We have a long track record of sustained excellence. Senior managers at international companies can trust Irish governments not to drastically change this policy. People know what they are investing in. This gives long term stability. There’s also a signalling effect at play. If it’s good enough for Intel, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc then we better have Ireland on the list.

Intel have just made a $5 billion commitment to Ireland that underpins 4,500 jobs. And these decisions evolve over years. One thing that is often overlooked are what I call the unsung heroes of the Irish FDI success story, people like Louise Phelan of Paypal, John Herlihy of Google, Sonia Flynn of Facebook and Eamonn Synott my boss here at Intel. And all the other management teams that convince their parent companies to invest and reinvest in Ireland.

These people have the company’s and the country’s best interest at heart. They constantly preach the message about what a great place Ireland is to invest in. 

Louise Phelan, VP Global Operations, Paypal

Why did PayPal choose Ireland?

PayPal chose Ireland because of the large pool of talented and skilled people to hire from. That was essential for us as we wanted to build successful teams that could drive technology and innovation advancements.

Language skills are also important for us and the fact that Ireland attracts so many people from across Europe to live and work here is also a major advantage. Other contributing factors included the world-class infrastructure in place and the pro-business work environment. Forbes just recently named Ireland as the number one country in the world to do business and that has been a real plus for Ireland Inc.’s international reputation. On top of all of this, Ireland is perfectly positioned as a gateway to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

What competitive advantages does Ireland have?

We are privileged to have such a highly educated and flexible workforce. Our educated young people have contributed significantly to Ireland becoming such an attractive place to set up and do business in. Ireland is ranked first globally for the flexibility and adaptability of its workforce. Also, the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2013 placed Ireland third for the availability of skilled labour.Ireland has also evolved into one of the world’s most important centres of technology and innovation. Our reputation and proven track record make it an easy choice for leading global multinationals to set up here. Eight of the top ten global ICT corporations are based in Ireland and we’re fast becoming the internet capital of Europe. Ireland also has the best foreign direct investment support channels in place, with the Government, the IDA and organisations like the American Chamber of Commerce all providing invaluable assistance to companies setting up here. We all work together to eliminate any challenges and barriers to entry. 

How can Ireland improve? Are there skills gaps?

The prospects for Ireland will continue to be very favourable if we can remain focused on our competitiveness, and keep improving our technology and language skills. We need to ensure that any skills gaps, particularly in the technology sector, are closed. This includes promoting relevant technology skills and foreign languages to students from a relatively early age. We also need to make visas more easily available to non-nationals with relevant skills, and we also need to ensure unemployed people can easily access retraining and back to work schemes. It’s essential that we continue to invest in education to ensure we have the right skills for the next generation of companies – that is key to sustaining future economic growth. Close collaboration between industry and the education sector is vital. We need to ensure students are graduating with the necessary skills and are ‘work ready’. PayPal currently employs more than 2,050 people in our centres in Dublin and Dundalk. We are continually growing our operations here and expect to employ more than 2,500 people by 2015.