Sunday 21 January 2018

We still attract world leaders in technology

AS more and more of the exciting new tech brands -- the Facebooks and Googles of this world -- come to Ireland, it would be easy to think that Ireland didn't have multinational investment until this century.

Of course that is not the case. IBM, Intel, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft are just four of the multinational giants who have long had operations in the Republic. Indeed IBM is acknowledged as being the longest serving multinational corporation in Ireland, having opened its doors here as long ago as 1956.

International Business Machines now employs some 3,000 people across the country, with offices in Mulhuddart and Blanchardstown in Dublin as well as laboratories in Cork and Galway for the world market.

Intel is maybe the highest profile of the long-standing tech companies here, employing about 4,000 people in mostly high-skill jobs in Leixlip in Kildare. The world's biggest chipmaker recently announced a €500m investment in Ireland while Hewlett Packard has the same number of staff at offices in Galway, Leixlip and Belfast.

Microsoft has been in Ireland since 1985 and now employs close to 1,000 people at its Sandyford offices. Ireland managing director Paul Rellis has been a vocal advocate of using the country as a centre of excellence for global technology.

So far, so good. but the story is not one of pure, unadulterated joy. "Ireland Inc" is in constant competition with other countries to attract, and perhaps more importantly retain, these companies, and the employment they bring.

Intel may be refurbishing a factory here and creating 200 jobs but last month it announced it was closing another factory here with 100 job losses. The chipmaker has also opened a factory in China that is set to compete with Ireland for future investment.

And China isn't the only competition Ireland is up against for multinationals. Israel has long been feted as the "ultimate smart economy", with economic growth increasing 50-fold since the state was founded, much of it built on technology. English-speaking, western in outlook and with a favourable timezone, Israel is a key rival for MNC investment.

As ever, the jewel in Ireland's crown is the 12.5pc corporate tax. The new government has made it clear this will not change, and for the good of the nation it cannot. It is vital the government does not forget the MNCs already here as it seeks new investment. With deep roots in the island already, they will be critical to our recovery.

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