Monday 23 October 2017

'Our greatest challenge today is rental property'

An edited transcript of PayPal Ireland country manager Louise Phelan's address to the Construction Industry Federation conference

PayPal's Dundalk building is home to some 1,400 employees
PayPal's Dundalk building is home to some 1,400 employees

Louise Phelan

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is something I'm very passionate about. FDI needs more construction jobs and that is our aim - to increase jobs in Ireland. For every 100 jobs created by FDI, an additional 71 are created.

PayPal has 2,400 people directly employed in Dublin and Dundalk and an additional 1,700 indirect jobs in Ireland.

Thankfully we continue to attract talent but during the downturn we increased our FDI from the US. We never lost the confidence from the American multinational sector for a number of reasons. The talented workforce is the most important thing we have. But we also had competitive costs, good infrastructure and after-care support ... schools, infrastructure, housing and anything that impacts on quality of life.

I can attract people into a job at PayPal but I also have to make sure I can manage and support their families. Because otherwise that person I have hired will not be successful, because their quality of life will be impacted if they don't have the schools, infrastructure and housing to support it.

In 2012, it was a time when companies were letting people go. PayPal was delighted to announce 1,400 jobs at a new building in Dundalk with 143,000 sq ft of space. For us, infrastructure and accessibility are two of the main reasons why we select sites in Ireland. One is in Ballycoolin, where I've 1,400 people and one in Dundalk.

Hugely important for us is close proximity to the airport and having a motorway that can service our business.

Our greatest challenge today is rental property. Property prices are a consistent problem for my teammates trying to find somewhere to live. In terms of housing, I'm asking all teammates in Ballycoolin and Dundalk to see will they rent rooms for teammates that I am bringing in from 26 countries because they can't get accommodation.

So the big issue for me is how to solve a number of these challenges. First of all, I would say that the banks need to start lending again to people who can afford a mortgage and are being turned down, and to developers who want to create the homes and commercial premises.

But there is no point in the construction industry producing commercial property unless you're going to match it with residential property to support it. We need to improve quality of life for people, for example to make more schools available.

Four weeks ago I brought somebody from the US [working for PayPal]. They placed themselves in rented accommodation in Malahide.

They could not get a school for their six-year-old though so they moved to Howth, and that's not acceptable. And that's not something that will allow Ireland to punch above its weight - if we can't provide the after-care support for the jobs we generate.

School is a huge piece [of the property issue]. We need to make sure schools can be secured for new arrivals to Dublin. It will make it easier for companies to attract talent, and bring the diaspora back, which is one of our responsibilities.

It would improve the quality of life for families, create jobs for teachers, spin-off trades and the construction industry.

I think that's why all of us are here today: to look at all the issues, and look at the opportunities for the construction industry as you play an intricate part in making sure we attract foreign direct investment.

Irish Independent

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