See the opportunities an not the obstacles

Brendan McDonald

“If you are positive, you’ll see opportunities instead of obstacles.” That quote, by the human rights activist Widad Akrawi, resonates strongly with me.
To put our best foot forward, to project the best value proposition possible for the South East Region we need to start from a position of positivity. I’m not suggesting there aren’t obstacles to be overcome and challenges to be met, but belief in our offering here in the South East is paramount; we can’t sell it to others if we don’t believe in it ourselves.
The South East has much to offer potential investors, a good mix of skills, the required infrastructure and excellent support services. Some 75 multinational companies are based here, 37 of those IDA client companies situated in Waterford, employing approximately 7,000 people.
There is a dynamic, high value manufacturing hub with a growing cluster of companies in the Life Sciences and Medical Technologies sector, global companies like West Pharma, Opko, Bausch & Lomb, GSK, Eurofins and TEVA.

Upbeat: Brendan McDonald of IDA Ireland.

Upbeat: Brendan McDonald of IDA Ireland.

Another cluster that is growing in Waterford is in Technology, with Red Hat, Nearform, Bluefin Payments Systems, SE2 & Agora all based here.
IDA Ireland, in conjunction with other Stakeholders, is very happy to be involved in the creation and launch of Crystal Valley Tech – an Industry Tech Group which will further showcase the best of Tech in the Region and in turn help to attract more Technology investment. There is also a growing sector in Telecoms Engineering/Research and Customer Contact Centres.
The presence of these global companies here acts as an important reference seller for other FDI. In addition, IDA’s sister agency, Enterprise Ireland, has a strong and varied indigenous client base across all sectors. Add to that two excellent third level colleges – Waterford Institute of Technology, which is highly engaged with industry, providing focused course content helping to grow a supply of qualified graduates for the strong base of companies in the region and Carlow IT which has some 300 industry support engagements in place through its Research & Commercialisation Support Centre.
There’s also the internationally recognised Centre of Excellent for ICT research and innovation, TSSG, as well as SEAM and PMBRC who are conducting significant research on behalf of both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland companies.

When it comes to property solutions for prospective investors IDA’s offering is comprehensive, from Strategic Sites; large, single user IDA-owned sites that are utility rich and zoned for industry, to a range of modern office space solutions. Construction is now underway on IDA’s second Advanced Technology Building (ATB) in Waterford, the only location in the country to have a second ATB. The first was purchased by the diversified healthcare company Opko who announced 200 new jobs at the facility. So our offering in Waterford is extremely competitive and attractive for FDI.
The challenges faced by IDA Ireland in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the South East is that we are operating in a climate of considerable geopolitical and economic uncertainty with a move towards greater protectionism. Against that backdrop IDA Ireland competes with other European and Global cities to win Foreign Direct Investment and that competition is fierce. The tendency of companies to prefer to locate in the major cities doesn’t just happen in Ireland, there’s evidence to show that capital cities of other European countries benefit the most from FDI. In fact IDA Ireland is relatively unique in having developed a focused regional strategy to spread investments across the country.

West Pharma is part of a dynamic, high value manufacturing hub now operating in Waterford.

West Pharma is part of a dynamic, high value manufacturing hub now operating in Waterford.

IDA Ireland’s first priority must always be to win the investment for Ireland. We cannot, and should not, risk jeopardising the project by insisting a company that wants to locate in Dublin go elsewhere in the country. We can take them to other locations and show them the value proposition of the region we’d like them to locate in, marketing it and making the strongest possible case, but we cannot force a company against their will to locate in a particular region.IDA Ireland continued to work relentlessly throughout 2017 to secure investments and jobs into areas outside of Dublin and that focus paid off with growth recorded in all regions. The growth rate in the South East from 2016 to 2017 was in fact 9% – the highest of any region of the country.
In the first half of this year we continued to record growth, with Investments up versus the first half of 2017, including regional investments, and job approvals continuing to remain high. IDA expects that investments approved in the first half will lead to the creation of over 11,300 jobs as companies roll out their plans over the coming months and years. This compares with 11,000 over the same period in 2017.

Ireland won 139 projects in the first six months of the year – compared with 114 in the first half of 2017. Of those, 51 were investments for regional locations.
IDA Ireland will continue to work with all Government and regional stakeholders, including the South East Action Plan for Jobs, The Regional Skills Forum, our sister agency Enterprise Ireland and County Councils to present regional locations in the best possible light to potential investors. Less than ten years ago, across 2008 and 2009, Ireland lost over 35,000 FDI jobs. This is a salutary reminder that all jobs must be fought for and won against increasing international competition. We take nothing for granted and we always deploy our best team to win investment for Ireland.
But we are not the sole agency for job creation, we are one element of it. It is by all stakeholders collaborating and working together that we will achieve increased levels of investment for Waterford and the South East.

For IDA Ireland’s part, we are working closely with our overseas operations personnel in target markets in Asia-Pacific, exploring new forms of investment and possible opportunities for second site investments.Another key focus for us is to support existing client companies. Once established, we continue to work with them, helping them to transform and develop in order to grow jobs. A substantial number of new jobs are created in this way in our existing client companies. There is much to be excited about here in Waterford. The Waterford City Urban Renewal Plan will help create a more attractive environment for businesses, residents and visitors. The North Quays Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) designation offers huge potential to regenerate this part of the city and the city and region’s amenities (including the incredibly successful Greenway tourism project) and cultural offering offers a most attractive lifestyle and work life balance for those who live and work here and those considering locating here. Indeed the recently published South East Relocation Survey 2018 carried out by National Recruitment & HR Services Group Collins McNicholas in conjunction with IDA Ireland, found that highly-skilled professionals from all over the world are moving to the South East for a better work-life balance, career opportunities, shorter commutes to work, lower living costs and more disposable income. A key finding of the survey was that the South East attracts highly-skilled professionals with 90% holding a Level 7 Ordinary Degree qualification. This all augers well for the future. We just need to continue to talk ourselves up.

Brendan McDonald is IDA Ireland’s Regional Business Development Manager for the South East

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