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Ireland knows what it means to do business

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 10, 2013 11:00 AM

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Leading Cities, an international research collaborative of municipal governments and universities focused on exchanging solutions to municipal challenges, facilitating business development and fostering government-to-government cooperation, is currently leading a delegation of Greater Boston's business, civic, academic and non-profit leaders on its annual Exchange Mission to explore Dublin, Ireland. Delegates will bring back their findings and look for opportunities to share and apply them in the Boston area, beginning with Leading Cities' annual Chatham Forum. Read the previous post in this series here.

"Boston gets it, it really gets it. Your city is already doing much of what we are going to speak about today." It's a quote that delegates of Leading Cities have heard around the world for many years. In many ways, Boston has taken business center stage but as the world looks more aggressively outward, Boston must be careful not to become complacent in its business development agenda and it, too, must continue to look outward, far outward, knowing all the while that the world is watching, including our family and friends in Ireland.

Often when we think of Ireland, we think of its rolling hills, patchwork-quilted fields and its curious, humorous and storytelling people...all the makings of the perfect tourist destination. But there is also a very rich business development ecosystem in Ireland.

Though the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 affected the Irish economy severely, Ireland has gained international recognition for the significant progress made in addressing its economic challenges and stimulating a robust recovery in a very big way. Prime Minister Edna Kenny is focused on moving the Ireland economy forward, driving down unemployment, closing the budget deficit, redefining collaboration and making Ireland a global hub for business. And the numbers prove it. According to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, US firms have invested $129.5 billion in Ireland between 2008 and 2012, about 14 times what has been invested in China and more Ireland investment than in the previous 58 years combined. Why?

Ireland brings a number of benefits for inward investment including a highly skilled talent pool with the youngest workforce in Europe (over 50% of the population is under 35 years old), flexible labor laws, a 12.5% corporate tax rate, a 25% research and development tax credit, an extensive tax treaty network, a straight forward passport processing system, free movement of goods and services in the EU and the distinction of being the only member of the Eurozone whose primary language is English. Ireland is working hard to bill itself as the "Gateway to the EU."

Doing business in Ireland has a certain simplicity to it and getting started is both quick and straightforward. According to the International Finance Group of the World Bank, Ireland currently ranks 13 out out of 185 countries for its overall "ease of doing business" based upon factors such as starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering prototypes, getting access to credit, protecting investors, trading across borders and paying taxes among other factors. And with that as its storefront, some of the companies that have made Ireland their strategic home in Europe include Twitter, Google, Facebook, Paypal, Genzyme, Coca-Cola, SAP, Lilly...and almost 1,000 more overseas companies.

Leading Cities' delegates had the opportunity to meet with three of Ireland's economic development agencies including the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), Enterprise Ireland and the Scientific Foundation of Ireland. With significant government support, each of these agencies has hundreds of employees who are helping to generate thousands of jobs for the country. Whether it be an inward focus on the promotion of high-quality foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland or an outward focus on the development and growth of Irish companies throughout the world, these agencies are aggressively pursuing a coordinated transformation agenda in biotech, technology, life sciences, manufacturing, financial services, energy, digital media and content and professional service organizations. No cookie cutter products here. Ireland's economic development agencies carefully vet promising companies and research opportunities and then tailor their toolkit of offerings among private-public partnerships to help the companies grow.

Having traveled on Leading Cities exchange trips to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, and now Dublin, what we have mostly learned is that Boston has done a great job in creating an economic blueprint for its city, residents and businesses. Boston does get it, it really does get it.

What we have also learned is that that the global economy is recovering and the world is catching up. Ireland has realized that if their budget is going to work in the long run, the economy must grow and a sound growth strategy requires strong leadership, a clear vision, an aggressive plan and world collaboration. As a leading city, Boston needs to be bold in its strategy, continue to play to its strengths, its talent and its proximity to world-renowned hospitals and universities. Like Dublin and every leading city, Boston is a laboratory of learning.

One of the the new phrases that we learned is that Ireland is very focused on trying to advance the success of "high potential start-ups." In many ways, Boston, too, rich in history and tradition, is a high potential start-up offering unlimited collaborative opportunities. And it needs to be because the world in watching, including our family and friends in Ireland.

Kevin P. Martin, Jr. is the Managing Director of Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C., a CPA and business consulting firm specializing in economic development, sustainable communities and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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