Lorna Conn: Exploring the growth of Irish business in the US
When we think of Ireland and the US in business terms we can often focus on the investment flow from the US to Ireland but the US is one of the largest markets for Irish investment, writes Lorna Conn, Chief Executive Officer, Cpl.
We punch well above our weight in the US, and according to Enterprise Ireland there is Irish investment in every single state there. US tax reform in recent years, the impact of Brexit and other contributory factors have meant that Irish companies are looking to the US to expand and grow. Companies such as Stripe and Qualtrics are choosing to headquarter in the States to access larger markets. The thriving tech and medtech industries there are really attractive to start ups who can access symbiotic partnerships and relationships that can fast track their growth exponentially. This is a trend that is, in my opinion, set to continue.
Indigenous Irish companies, spread across 800 locations throughout every US State and employing more than 110,000 people, have helped to make Ireland the ninth largest source of foreign direct investment in the US. A remarkable position to be in for a country of our size.
In truth I think that there is more to it than just economics, there is a very strong affinity between the US and Ireland. We have shared history and common ancestral links as well as strong political relations. The diaspora, of course, play such an important role in building and maintaining relationships between the two nations. It is not unique to the business world – when you look at education, philanthropy, scientific research and culture you can see the strong transatlantic bond that exists.
Over 30 million Americans identified themselves as Irish American in the US census. Recent research commissioned by Glucksman Ireland House NYU and the Council for American Irish Relations found that Irish Americans, despite being many generations removed from Ireland, continue to be attracted to their Irish heritage because of Irish history and culture, and the positive perceptions of Irish identity in the US.
Along with this strong bond you have a market conducive to good business. Americans have a very pro-business philosophy and the US has worked on its regulatory environment to reduce some of the red tape that might previously have been insurmountable for companies. This along with a more favourable corporate tax rate, ready access to capital, inexpensive and plentiful energy, and vast natural resources make it a very attractive market for the Irish. With over 300 million potential consumers for products and services you can see why Irish companies continue to invest and grow their businesses in the United States. It is our largest trading partner with €255 billion in trade between the two countries in 2021 alone – 30% of Ireland’s total global trade.
My business is in talent solutions and I think that the impact of our current skills shortage means that companies look to the US and its potential pool of talent to fill roles. According to IBEC Irish companies employ almost as many people in the US as US companies employ in Ireland. Another remarkable statistic and one that drives home the real impact of the Irish. The battle for talent is now global – our new working environment and working methods mean that employees can move and work from anywhere. Talent attraction and skills shortages are among the greatest challenges for companies meaning that some might look overseas to fill roles and access the calibre of staff that they need.
Having worked extensively in the US myself, and with a view to Cpl investing there in the future, I can see the appeal for Irish companies. It is a dynamic and fast paced market – much more aggressive than here. If you are hungry to succeed and are keen to grow then the appeal of the US is undeniable. I feel there is still such untapped potential in the US market – an innovative, future focused and vibrant environment in which to do business. The sheer scale of the US brings opportunity but also the diversity of markets – from West to East coast, North to South you have differences in the areas of speciality and ways of doing business so companies can find the right fit based simply on location alone.
We are now of course the only English speaking country in the EU which makes us an attractive option for the US due to the ease of doing business and our perceived ease of access to other European jurisdictions. An American diplomat who wrote in one of our national newspapers some years back spoke about the bond between the two countries and the mutually beneficial ‘two-way street’ of investment. “Once a country lane, US-Irish commercial activity is now a super-highway valued at over $590bn (€452bn). The titans of Irish enterprise tell us the business climate in the States has never been better.” Reece Smyth wrote. This still seems to be continuing to bear true today.
It is heartening to see the great success of the Irish in the US. That affinity and strong bond continues to pay dividends and open doors for the Irish who want to experience that “American dream”. There are many supports in place both here and in the US so that when the opportunities arise the Irish are ready and able to avail of them.