It might seem like investment promoters from Ireland have it easy: Not only is their country No. 1 for business in the world by some measures, but they also have a tight pitch formed around four, easy-to-remember T’s: talent, technology, tax and track record.
Still, Ireland: Gateway to Europe, a private consortium of service providers from the country, saw the need to promote the island’s advantages in two U.S. forums last month, including one held at the World Trade Center Atlanta.
Their main story: After a property bubble burst in 2009, the economy once known as the “Celtic Tiger” buckled down, trimmed public spending and came roaring back. Last year, it posted 4.8 percent growth, outpacing the rest of the euro zone, of which it’s the only English-speaking member.
Throughout that period of austerity, the country kept its commitment to a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate and late last year closed the “Double Irish” tax loophole that drew criticism from some of its allies.
Organizers of the Gateway event sought to build on momentum from a visit by one of the country’s chief salesmen, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who came to Atlanta in March to head up this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and tout Ireland’s business prowess.
The Gateway event showcased how some small Atlanta-based companies had begun to follow the lead of global giants like Google and Apple in setting up operations there.
N3 LLC, a consultancy that handles outsourced sales and business development, set up a European office in Dublin to service existing customers and now employs more than 30 of its 800-strong global workforce there.
Jeff Laue, the company’s CEO and co-founder, said he first considered Ireland when it was pitched by his monsignor at a church fundraiser. He later went on a trip arranged by IDA Ireland, the government’s investment promotion agency.
After setting up shop there, he can vouch for the “talent” portion of their pitch. Not only does the country have its own young, skilled and tech-savvy workforce, but Dublin is a magnet for speakers of other vital languages from throughout the EU, he said. Ireland’s workforce surpasses what he has seen in the company’s other offices in China, Costa Rica and Brazil.
“What we do, it’s about culture: highly educated, highly motivated individuals. When I took a trip over there, I saw that like I hadn’t seen anywhere else,” Mr. Laue said.
Neomed Inc., which makes feeding tubes for feeding premature babies, was similarly impressed with Ireland’s people, even outside business contexts. The company has one representative in Galway, a hotbed for medical-device manufacturing and research.
“Literally, there are taxi drivers there that can speak to you about medical devices,” said Hillary Sherman, NeoMed’s vice president of finance, who said the company is hoping to build out R&D there and set up an office to support international sales.
IDA representatives joked that they might have to make “taxi drivers” the fifth ”T” in their pitch, but in all seriousness, they pointed out the “treatment” American firms will receive there, not only from IDA but from Ireland’s hospitable and fun-loving people.
“We really want you to experience it first hand; there’s no comparison,” said Mary McEvoy, a vice president for IDA in Atlanta, who added that “half the battle” when pitching American firms is rattling off a list of the hundreds of U.S. companies already there.
U.S. investment in Ireland jumped 42 percent in 2014, compared to a 19 percent decrease in the rest of the EU. Some 570 American companies employ 100,000 people in Ireland, while 220 Irish companies provide thousands of jobs in all 50 states, according to IDA.
For more information about Ireland: Gateway to Europe, visit www.gatewaytoeurope.org.