Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

South American growth can be tapped into

Northern Ireland can attract investment from South America by focusing on the province's low labour costs as a selling point, it's been claimed.

Mike McKerr, managing partner of business advisers Ernst & Young, said the province's sights should turn to South America after a successful record of attracting big US business.

Speaking in Monte Carlo from the firm's World Entrepreneur of the Year final, Mr McKerr said he would speak to Marco Stefanini, the Brazilian entrepreneur and owner of Stefanini IT Solutions, who has said he could open a centre in the province.

Northern Ireland's low cost attractiveness could be boiled down to fundamentals such as the cost of someone sitting at a desk in Northern Ireland compared to other EU locations, Mr McKerr said. The number of available graduates was another selling-point – though that availability also pointed to a dearth of existing opportunities.

"We have some real issues in Northern Ireland about under-employment of graduates.

"The number of graduates which come out and the number of graduate positions there are, are really out of sync and will probably remain so until we rebalance our economy.

"The good thing for a businessman like Marco Stefanini is if he comes in that means he will have a fairly steady cost base for a number of years and a really great pool of graduates to choose from.

"He's in IT outsourcing and if you look at the success of Citibank, New York Stock Exchange, Northgate, they have all over-exceeded their employment targets because there are some really good people in IT.

"If we could ever attract a company like Stefanini IT Solutions to set up some form of nearshoring centre in Northern Ireland, I think you'd find you then could start clustering others. You can't overlook the sheer scale of the Brazilian economy – there's 150m people and they have been looking at serving their domestic economy because there's a burgeoning middle class in Brazil, like Argentina."

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