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The IDA are bringing in the jobs, now we need somewhere to put them

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The view down into Midtown Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images.

The view down into Midtown Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The view down into Midtown Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images.

YOU can see maybe 5 million sq ft of office buildings from Pat Howlin's office on the 17th floor of 345 Park Avenue, Manhattan. It's probably fair to say that his job would be a lot easier if some of those office towers were in Dublin instead of New York.

Mr Howlin has worked for 35 years with the IDA and his current role as "Director, North America", puts him on the western front as it were of Ireland's economic recovery. In his role he is responsible for landing as many new projects and jobs as possible.

Last year was a record one for job creation by IDA projects, and companies originating in the US accounted for over 70pc of those jobs. Mr Howlin told me how the IDA operates there and the opportunities and challenges the agency faces when it comes to competing for investment.

The IDA has 26 people on the ground in six offices in North America and are adding 13 new staff as part of the Government's "Winning Abroad" strategy.

"Foreign Direct Investment is on an upward curve and there is more business we can achieve with more resources."

The results in the first half of this year are impressive with over 100 investments creating 8,000 new jobs. Again, the majority of those jobs are with US companies.

Nearly two thirds of those jobs arose from new investment by companies already located in Ireland, Some 30pc from companies newly locating in Ireland and the remainder from new research and development technology projects.

Incoming projects are in three main sectors:

•Life Sciences eg. Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Johnson and Johnson and Regenoron.

•The ICT Sector saw investments from companies including PayPal, Tyco, Air BnB, Survey Monkey and Yelp

•Financial Services, where this years projects included Liberty Mutual, HedgeServe, DMS Offshore Investments and Charles River Investments.

On the ground, Pat Howlin says that their job is all about developing long term relationships.

"We put a huge emphasis on one to one meetings with executives here. We stay very close to our existing clients and we research up and coming people."

"We network with industry groups, attend trade shows, speak at conferences and run seminars and focus groups. We also target Irish executives in US companies- they certainly get us in the door," he added.

Whilst they haven't lost a project yet because of the lack of office buildings, particularly in Dublin, "looking at the pipeline of projects over the next two years, we are particularly worried about the lack of large modern buildings."

The IDA are encouraging government, NAMA and the private sector to increase the construction of new buildings. To this end the agency has taken things into their own hands, and are beginning the construction of new buildings in Waterford, Athlone and Letterkenny, each designed to be suitable for a production use or as an office building.

As a visitor in New York I was painfully aware of the impact of the weak euro and currency fluctuations are also an issue for Pat Howlin.

"It doesn't tend to affect our existing clients as they take a longer term view but exchange rates certainly have an impact for new start ups."

Despite the attention Ireland's tax regime has been getting globally over the last few years, Mr Howlin is not overly concerned about the perceived pressure on Ireland's 12.5pc tax rate.

"US companies invest abroad largely to service their markets abroad. The first thing they want is talented people. Then they want stability, access to technology and a competitive cost base. Tax doesn't come into it unless you have all of those. There is a "war on talent" going on in international markets and Ireland is providing the talented people and the cultural mix that US companies want. Government insists that the tax rate will not change, although the international tax regime may.

"We will move in step with that and we will maintain our competitiveness relative to our international competitors."

I strolled between the skyscrapers on Park Avenue, convinced that our investment is in better shape than ever. All they need are more resources and more buildings.

Indo Business