Opinion /

US Investment’s Role in Regional Development

This article featured in the Irish Examiner special report on US Business in Ireland, February 16th 2024.

US multinationals find Ireland an attractive investment destination for a myriad of reasons, ranging from the exceptional quality of our highly-educated workforce, to the dynamic innovation ecosystem and seamless access to the European single market. Allied to this, is the strong trading relationship between Ireland and the United States which has opened up new markets for Irish businesses, leading to increased exports and economic prosperity. 

This mutually beneficial relationship has been instrumental in propelling Ireland to its current position on the global stage. Put simply, Ireland’s reputation as an ideal place to do business has made it a destination of choice for companies seeking a European base.

Key to the success of Ireland’s FDI investment policy, and perhaps of most value to the Irish economy, is the IDA’s regional development strategy. For more than half a century, US multinationals have been coming to Ireland and setting up in regional locations. This can be attributed, in no small part, to Irish Government policies and to IDA Ireland who have consistently advocated  for balanced regional development. 

In 2023 alone, 54% of the 248 investments secured by the IDA were directed to locations outside of Dublin. This focus on delivering economic benefit for locations throughout Ireland, has allowed industry-specific ecosystems to develop and thrive in regional locations. These clusters of regional economic development have a significant positive effect, signalling a supportive environment in which to do business, in turn serving to encourage and attract additional investment. 

Ireland’s life sciences sector, employing approximately 100,000 people across 250 companies, has evolved into a crucial industrial pillar supporting our economy. US multinationals have led the charge in this space, and were quick to recognise the value of setting up in regional locations throughout the country. In the 1960s, Pfizer put down roots in Ringaskiddy on the shore of Cork Harbour. At the time, it was one of a small number of US-headquartered life sciences companies which had started to look at Ireland and was certainly the first to look at Ringaskiddy. 

In the intervening decades, life sciences companies have followed Pfizer to the South-West, creating clusters of excellence which stand as examples to others who continue to follow in their footsteps. IDA client companies located within the regions are a who’s who of the global life sciences community. Indirectly, these investments have also fuelled entrepreneurship and supported small Irish businesses. The presence of these biopharmaceutical and medical device companies created a need for spin-off ancillary services. Expertise in specialised forms of professional services, maintenance, construction and transportation are in high-demand, thereby creating additional opportunities for indigenous suppliers. The saying holds true: a rising tide lifts all boats!

This clustering effect has been replicated in regions across Ireland, in industries ranging from technology and cybersecurity to financial services and advancing manufacturing. Balanced regional development stands as a lynchpin in the narrative of Ireland’s economic evolution, particularly in the context of US investment. IDA Ireland’s commitment to directing a fair share of investments away from the Greater Dublin region ensures that the benefits of economic growth are not confined solely to the capital. Beyond the obvious economic advantages, this approach nurtures a more inclusive and resilient national economy, preventing overreliance on a single geographic area. 

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