Bringing strong investment into the southwest region

Last year was a record-breaking one for foreign direct investment, with the southwest being one of the big winners, but there are still challenges to face

Ray O’Connor, IDA Ireland’s department manager of regions and enterprise development: ‘The FDI performance in this region has been consistent over the past five years, with employment among IDA clients increasing by 25 per cent’. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Foreign direct investment (FDI) continues to contribute substantially to the Irish economy in terms of employment and benefit to regional economies.

Last year saw significantly higher levels of foreign direct investment than in 2020, and strong gains in both gross and net employment.

Total employment in IDA client companies in Ireland now stands at 275,384, up 16,826 on 2020. Some 249 investments were won in 2021: 104 of them new-name investments and the remainder expansions from established companies growing their Irish operations.

Growth in regions was particularly strong last year, with 53 per cent – 133 projects of the 249 investments won – going to regional locations and employment growth recorded in every region of the country, including in the southwest.

There are 218 IDA client companies employing 47,572 people in the southwest region.

The positive impact of FDI was highlighted by Ray O’Connor, IDA Ireland’s department manager of regions and enterprise development, who said: “the FDI performance in this region has been consistent over the past five years, with employment among IDA clients increasing by 25 per cent.

“The southwest has a significant ecosystem of well-established companies across technology, life sciences, international financial services and engineering and industrial technologies.”

The southwest has also won substantial investment across all of these sectors over a sustained period, which has contributed considerably to continued employment growth and had positive economic impacts on other sectors of the local and regional economy.

The announcements included that Apple has submitted a planning application to support further expansion of its Cork operations, including a new campus building that will accommodate 1,300 employees.

In addition, leading science and technology company Merkek has invested approximately €440 million to increase its membrane manufacturing capacity in Carrigtwohill and to build a new manufacturing facility at Blarney Business Park; Janssen Sciences Ireland has announced a €150 million expansion of its biopharmaceutical facility in Ringaskiddy; and leading digital financial services provider Remitly Global Inc will be creating over 120 jobs in the next six months.

O’Connor said the southwest region had much to offer investors, not least the strong track record of investment here from global leaders in life sciences, international financial services, engineering, and technology.

“The value proposition to investors remains strong here in the southwest,” he said. “We have built up a high level of expertise in those sectors that have established operations here and benefit greatly from a strong skills pool.

“The dynamic and innovative enterprise base is actively supported by a strong talent pipeline and research capability across the region’s tertiary facilities at University College Cork and Munster Technological University.

“Continued investment in key infrastructure across road, rail, water and wastewater is critical to supporting the continued growth of Cork. Progression and completion of key projects such as the Dunkettle interchange, M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy, N22 Macroom Ballyvourney, and investment in public transport are important.

“The restoration of international connections through Cork Airport is also a key asset for the region. Continued investment in residential and commercial property as well as placemaking initiatives will be critical for Cork and the wide region to continue to win FDI in the future.”

It’s also important to remember however that there are also serious challenges that business can’t afford to ignore, remarked O’Connor. “We are in a time of unprecedented technology disruption in the global manufacturing sector, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Being at the forefront of this evolution coupled with the enhancement of a skilled workforce for the future is vital. Continued focus on those actions is needed to underpin future viability and support future growth.”

So too is the need for continued emphasis on competitiveness even in the face of current inflationary pressures.

Despite the challenges, FDI in Ireland has experienced staircase growth in employment terms for more than a decade now, linked to successful FDI strategies, and it’s a record it takes pride in.

In choosing to invest in Ireland, these companies help the agency enormously in seeking to attract further investment by bearing testament to Ireland being an excellent location for such investment.

“But there will be no standing still”, commented O’Connor. “The last two and half years have taught us the value and importance of resilience, of agility and continued innovation. Ireland has to do more to remain attractive in an extremely competitive global environment for FDI.”