Despite a year of unprecedented challenges dealing with a worldwide pandemic and Brexit, IDA Ireland announced 246 new investments in Ireland in 2020 and the creation of 20,123 new jobs. The US accounted for 67% of these investments coming from companies based in North America – the highest number yet up from 63% in 2019.
“In the context of the Covid-19 global pandemic the FDI sector has shown huge resilience and its performance is remarkable,” said Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA Ireland.
The results, he said, “show the continued attractiveness of Ireland as a destination for companies seeking to invest”.
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Of the 246 investments, 128 or 52% went to regional locations outside of Dublin underlining IDA Ireland’s strategic focus on regional development.
This compares to 250 investments in the same period last year which Shanahan said was “an excellent outcome, achieved through a focus on our existing client base and on stronger than anticipated new name performance”.
Employment growth increased by 3.6% which means there are 257,394 people working in IDA client companies in Ireland accounting directly for 12.4% of COVID-adjusted national employment.
That speaks to a continued confidence Shanahan said in Ireland’s investment proposition “as a stable and reliable location for global investors, evidenced by the 95 new name companies who invested here in 2020”.
The other 151 investments made here last year were, he said: “expansions by established companies, demonstrating their considerable commitment to Ireland”. Longevity, resilience and commitment he said are the hallmark of multinational companies in Ireland: one-third of which have been here for 20 years or more. Apple recently celebrated 40 years with over 6,000 employees, and Intel is established 30 years with 4,900 employees in Kildare, Cork and Shannon, Pfizer, Analog Devices, Boston Scientific, Eli Lilly, and Merit Medical have all been in Ireland for two decades and others much longer.
The USA, Shanahan said has been our primary source market for FDI with many of the leading multinational companies across life sciences, technology and financial services choosing Ireland as their preferred location in Europe for their operations.
Many of these companies he said have doubled down on their investments and expanded and transformed and grown their operations here in Ireland.
“We have 847 US-multinational companies employing over 170,000 people in Ireland so their contribution has been immense”.
This he said will be important in the years ahead with the advent of new ways of working, technological change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
While job losses were slightly up last year on recent years at 4.5% sectors such as Life Sciences and Technology were much less affected and in a number of cases increased operations in response to demand for Covid-related products, mitigating job losses in other sectors. At the end of the year, 52% of employees in IDA Ireland client companies remained working from home, compared to 28% nationally.
IDA Ireland recently announced a new four-year strategy entitled ‘Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth 2021-2024’. The strategy sets out a target of 800 investments, half in regional locations and 50,000 new jobs over the next four years. It includes a programme of investment in 19 regional industrial and commercial sites. Shanahan says the strategy will target new industries like autonomous vehicles, cell and gene therapy, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. IDA Ireland plans to deliver 19 Advanced Building Solutions (ABS) to regional locations over the course of the strategy in support of further regional investment.
The focus is on attracting the next generation of leading MNCs to locate in Ireland, further driving sustainable growth and maximising the impact of FDI in Ireland to 2024 and beyond.
The new four-year strategy was Shanahan said written in the context of continuing uncertainty with the virus and with Brexit and he said IDA Ireland will be reviewing the strategy at its mid-point.
“Towards the end of 2022, we will assess progress and make any adjustments necessary to respond to changes in the global or national environment. While the strategy is directionally correct in its current focus and form we will be as pragmatic and flexible as required in adapting to circumstances as they unfold”.
We are facing he said into difficult times – “competition for global investment is growing and has never been as intense. To compete for and win investments, regions must have the strongest possible value proposition. This will require regional and national stakeholders working in collaboration to create the conditions that meet and exceed the needs of international investors”.
Shanahan also noticed a rising challenge from the prospect of growing regional investment thanks to the surge in remote working. While he said this could open up opportunities for investment in Ireland, where 58% of FDI and employment is outside of Dublin he added: “that opens up lots of locations that weren’t maybe in play before, and they’re all locations that Ireland will have to compete with. We compete on a world stage, that’s the reality of it”.
Shanahan said FDI was central to Ireland’s recovery during the last recession and it will he said be crucial again as we rebuild after the pandemic.
Post-Brexit he said Ireland is well-placed to continue to compete for investment.
“We are one of the top locations of choice for international financial services. We believe we have a very strong product offering to companies that may in the past have considered locating in the UK to service Europe.”
Ireland he said has performed strongly in Brexit related investments securing 90 investments with a commitment to 5,500 jobs primarily in financial services and many have come from the US such as Bank of America, J P Morgan, Citi and others.
“Ireland is now the only English-speaking common-law jurisdiction fully integrated into the European legal order. As companies seek Brexit solutions that will impose the lowest possible additional costs and the least possible disruption to trade, Ireland offers a base to sustain access to the Single Market, to minimise uncertainty and to grow their business. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) together with the Withdrawal Agreement including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, means that Ireland’s key objectives in the Brexit process have been achieved.”