Continuing our series where business leaders suggest ways of kickstarting the Irish economy, Terry Clune of Connect Ireland has an offer no patriot or taxpayer will want to refuse
'We're calling on Irish citizens to come forward and help create jobs -- and in the process we'll pay them €1,500 for every job'
IN 1917, Henry Ford came to Ireland and established what was to be one of the most successful and longest-running enterprises the county has seen -- Henry Ford & Son Ltd which later became a division of Ford Motor Company.
The company employed hundreds of people in Cork for the 67 years it existed until its closure in 1984. Henry Ford was born in America, so the question is: why did he come to Ireland? Why did he set up in Cork?
The simple answer is his dad and his grandfather, both Cork natives but living in the US, asked him to help the people of Cork.
As Ford historian Bob Kreipke explains: "Henry Ford's family roots drew him to Ireland. He knew what he was able to do socially and economically in the United States, and he figured he could apply that model to the depressed area of Cork."
And he did. Ford was Ireland's largest private sector employer for 42 years.
While it may come as a surprise that a major business decision could be based on the request of a family member, a colleague or a friend, the fact is that this happened. And for counties like Israel, which uses its diaspora throughout the world to boost its domestic economy, it happens all the time.
So why should this not happen in Ireland, a country that has one of the largest diaspora communities of any nation? The answer is that it can happen -- through ConnectIreland.com and the Government's 'Succeed in Ireland' initiative, which aims to create at least 5,000 jobs in Ireland over the next five years.
When it comes to global employers, Ireland is already the envy of most of its European counterparts. We are the European headquarters for four out of the five biggest internet providers, nine out of 10 of the largest pharmaceutical companies, 17 of the top 25 medical device companies, four of the five largest global gaming companies in the world... and the list goes on.
What's so attractive about Ireland? Of course, we have a highly attractive corporate tax structure. But we're also one of only two EU countries that daily speak English, the international language of business. And we're the only English-speaking member of the eurozone, which eliminates the risk of currency fluctuations.
Companies recognise that Irish people are very creative, with a terrific work ethic. The World Competitiveness Index ranks Ireland first in availability of skilled labour. The Lonely Planet guidebook series has ranked Ireland the friendliest country in the world in two of the past five years. Ireland is a fun place to be with clean air, water, and lots of space. Even our weather, while it may rain a lot, is perfect for cloud computing -- not too hot, and not too cold, so energy costs stay low.
We have the big market players so now we need to attract the next level of companies seeking to expand and looking for a European location, particularly in an English speaking country.
We are calling on the people of Ireland to use their contacts all over the world to open up new avenues of communication which could ultimately lead to job creation in their country or even their county.
Under the initiative, any person who succeeds in bringing a company to Ireland which creates jobs will be paid a minimum of €1,500 per job, up to a maximum of 100 jobs. The reward is payable in two stages -- 50 per cent after one year of the job being created, and 50 per cent after two years.
Interestingly, of the 800 inquiries we have received in the initial couple of weeks, the vast majority are engaging for altruistic or patriotic reasons.
ConnectIreland is for everybody and it is open to everyone across the world.
If a person from Ireland, who has worked abroad in the past, is currently working abroad or knows people abroad, can introduce the ConnectIreland.com team to a company that is expanding internationally, that's the one and only thing they need to do. From there, ConnectIreland will do the work. We will speak with a decision maker in these expanding companies. We will explain why they should locate in Ireland.
Unlike other job initiatives that have been launched over the past year or two this is not targeted at the corporates or the business leaders -- it's targeted at every citizen who knows someone in an expanding company or just a company overseas. And we're not talking about the large multinationals who already know about doing business in Ireland -- we're talking about the small- to medium-sized businesses that want to grow and expand into Europe, and are deciding where they should base themselves.
We have a dedicated professional team of 30 based in Kilkenny who are the central point of contact for all introductions. Our team also includes experienced foreign direct investment specialists to work with companies and help them understand why they should choose Ireland.
If you are a small internet company in the US or China or Brazil and you are told that Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Facebook all have their European operations in Ireland you are going to take interest. We just need to get that message out there. This initiative is open to absolutely everybody -- there are three million Irish people above the age of 18. Together we all know a huge amount of people.
The steps for those who want to get involved are simple. First, register and create an online account with ConnectIreland, then speak with your overseas contacts to identify a suitable company where you may have a connection.
Typically, the company needs to be expanding, be export focused, and not already be in discussions with the Irish authorities. You do not need to have any business knowledge yourself, you just need to know people.
Our team will manage your introduction from there, convincing the company to locate in Ireland. You can follow our progress through your online account, and your account manager. Once the company establishes in Ireland, your account manager will let you know and you will receive a financial reward for each job created by that company over a three-year period, subject to a minimum of €4,500 if three jobs are created.
For example if 20 jobs have been created from your introduction, you will receive a reward of €30,000, payable half at the end of the first year of the jobs being created, and half at the end of the second year.
As the Henry Ford story shows, you don't have to be in boardrooms to be a connector. Talk to your aunt in America, your cousin in Asia, your neighbour's friend, your old college roommate, your son or daughter in Australia -- everybody has connections. We just need to use them.
Terry Clune is the founder of ConnectIreland.com and Taxback.com and is also a former entrepreneur of the year