Belfast Telegraph

View from Dublin: Infrastructure key to competitiveness

By Mark Redmond

There is a growing recognition that while costs and a competitive corporate tax environment are important to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), our key advantage is our base of highly-skilled employees, with infrastructure also being critically important.

More than 130,000 talented people work for US multinationals in Ireland and they appreciate the recognition of their central role in the remarkable success story that is the US-Ireland economic relationship.

The leadership teams in those companies will appreciate the recognition of the importance of infrastructure to their determined efforts to retain FDI jobs in Ireland and to attract new ones - but the level of global competition they face has never been stronger.

Because of the disproportionate amount of airtime given to the importance of corporate tax to FDI, it is welcome to see prominence being given to talent and infrastructure. So what has Ireland done well under these two headings and what does it need to do to maintain our envied position as the location of choice for US FDI?

Over the past 20 years, in many parts of Ireland, we delivered on the maxim, "if you build it, they will come".

You can now drive on interrupted motorway from Belfast to Cork.

But the journey from Dublin to, for example, Letterkenny is a very different experience and serves as a barrier to the Northwest region fully developing its massive potential as an FDI zone. The opposite corner of the country would greatly benefit from the establishment of the long discussed technological university for the South East region.

The more Ireland can offer clusters or ecosystems that comprise of leading higher education institutes (HEI) of scale, innovative Irish start-ups/SMEs and research-intensive FDI operations, the stronger our position will be in the future to win new FDI.

Hanging on the wall of one of the largest FDI employers in Ireland, in the middle of reports on its Irish operations' performance, is this framed quotation from Benjamin Franklin: "When the well is dry we know the value of water."

It is a salutary reminder of the thousands of FDI jobs all over Ireland, in sectors including ICT, medtech and pharmaceuticals, that depend on the guaranteed supply of cost-efficient, high quality water.

Countries that we compete with for these jobs are not blessed with the climate that we have. But they have invested heavily in their domestic and industrial water supply and treatment infrastructure - if we don't do likewise, we run the risk of being left behind.

The same principle applies to our energy and broadband infrastructure - innovation in these areas is essential to our competitive position.

Mark Redmond is the chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce, the representative body for US multinational companies in Ireland

Belfast Telegraph