Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, reflects on Ireland’s global mindset, and the country’s astonishing transformation since 1993.
Note: This piece was originally published in the Ireland INC US 250 Index Special Report 2023
This year, as Ibec celebrates its 30th anniversary, we have been reflecting on Ireland’s astonishing transformation since 1993. Ireland’s global mindset has played a pivotal role in its journey to economic prosperity. A prime example of this is the enduring trade relationship between Ireland and the US.
Our strategic position has been key in attracting investment from the US for many decades, helping to transform the Irish economy into a modern hub of global commerce. From Henry Ford a century ago to the establishment of the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters of today’s global leaders in technology, bio-pharma, and med-tech, Ireland offers a familiar environment for US businesses to grow their global footprint from. While US investments in Ireland have fostered job creation, spurred economic growth, and established a foundation for the strong trade relationship – it is very much a two-way street.
Irish firms in the US almost mirror the employment contribution of American companies in Ireland. Furthermore, Ireland proudly stands as the 9th largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the US with Irish investment in the US valued at over $240bn. The US market remains a cornerstone for many Irish companies seeking expansion. Over 600 Irish firms operate across diverse sectors in the US, from agrifood manufacturing to construction and services, bringing substantial investments and high-quality jobs.
Companies like Glanbia, CRH and Kerry Group represent great Irish success stories, but a new chapter is now being written by a generation of young entrepreneurs from Ireland who have begun years to set up new businesses in the US, emphasising the mobile nature of talent between the two countries and cultural compatibility.
Ireland’s global mindset has played a pivotal role in its journey to economic prosperity.
Accessing the European market remains profoundly important for global US businesses. Ireland’s membership in the EU has positioned it as a hub for global trade in both goods and services. This was evident in Ireland’s critical role in global supply chains during the pandemic. As a strategic gateway, Ireland offers US companies access to over 500 million customers in the EU. Ireland assures US investors of both certainty and access to world-class talent. With a commitment to continuous upskilling and a culture of innovation, Ireland stands at the forefront of emerging technologies. AI, robotics, and advanced manufacturing are just a few examples of this.
Ireland’s economy thrives, in part, because of the human capital enriched by immigration, making Ireland a vital gateway to the wider EU talent pool. The nonnational workforce in Ireland comprises a significant portion: double the EU average. In today’s globally connected business landscape where collaborative innovation is paramount, Ireland’s leading-edge sectors and its rich talent pool become invaluable assets to trading relationships. The globalized nature of Ireland’s economy is evident by the fact that 60% of its final exports integrate into global supply chains, either as fully or partially processed goods. This is the highest ratio globally.
Currently, Ireland hosts all top 10 global technology companies, 18 of the world’s top 25 medical technology firms, and 18 of the top 20 pharmaceutical corporations. Remarkably, six of the world’s best-selling pharmaceutical products are produced exclusively in Ireland. The melding of expertise from these sectors fosters greater research collaboration, access to diverse skill sets, connections to specialized local suppliers, and simplifies the management of global supply chains.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been devastating, serving as a stark reminder of the immense value of peace. In the face of growing global political instability, Ireland’s reputation as a stable democracy—where political rights and civil liberties are upheld—becomes even more vital to our society, economy, and role on the international stage. In 2023, Ibec had the honor of commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement through our ‘For Peace + Prosperity’ campaign. This highlighted the business community’s role in promoting peace in Ireland by strengthening entrepreneurial and economic connections. We are deeply grateful for the US’s ongoing support in preserving peace on our island.
Both our economies have thrived on trade and internationalization, benefiting citizens of Ireland and the US. However, recent years have posed challenges to the open-border approach that has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity. Now, it’s crucial that our business communities advocate for maintaining our global outlook. At Ibec, we uphold the Irish business model, which stands on firm foundations and has immensely profited from the reciprocal relationship between Ireland and the US. In a post Brexit era, Ireland plays an even greater role for US companies seeking an EU presence, fostering closer collaboration between US and Irish businesses.
About the author: Danny McCoy is CEO of Ibec.