Manufacturing will play a vital role in Ireland's economic recovery and is the bedrock for future foreign direct investment, the Lemass International Forum heard today.
The forum, which examined "The Factory of the Future: the Role of Manufacturing in Ireland's Economic Recovery", was addressed by three President's of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, who all concurred that as Ireland strives for export led growth, we must ensure that we remain an attractive location for high end manufacturing operations.
Lionel Alexander, current President of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and Vice President of HP Manufacturing, said: "US companies export over €90 billion worth of products from Ireland to the rest of the world. If Ireland isn't a compelling location for companies to conduct their manufacturing, these products will be produced elsewhere and the benefits that accrue in terms of employment, the contribution to Ireland's tax take and the development of innovation will be lost".
Mr. Alexander pointed out that US companies have invested over €165 bn in Ireland and in 2008 (the latest figures available) contributed €3 bn to the exchequer in taxes including 40% of the total corporate tax take, as well as a further €13 billion in expenditure in the Irish economy in terms of payroll, goods and services. "The smart economy has to be about doing smart things and the smartest thing we can do first is to exploit, enhance and protect our existing manufacturing base of foreign direct investment", he said.
Dr. Paul Duffy, Vice President Operations, Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals Ltd (and 2009 President of the American Chamber) added: "Manufacturing needs to be treated as a core element of the SMART Economy. But if we are to harness its potential to deliver economic and societal change then we need to move towards greater collaboration and convergence across the entire value chain. Stand alone manufacturing can easily move across borders, but when manufacturing is the base around which we build product development, marketing, distribution and supply chain services becomes more embedded into the Irish economy and more important to the global corporation".
Dr Duffy said that Ireland had to become more innovative and research more commercially focused if it was to continue to secure high end manufacturing. "Excellent research is being conducted in universities and hospitals and we should focus on commercialising the potential output of this research. Stronger linkages between the research community and the manufacturing base would benefit both and ultimately build Ireland's reputation for innovation".
Ireland has its advantages when competing for these advanced manufacturing projects, according to Jim O'Hara, General Manager, Intel Ireland (and 2007 President of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland). "We have an existing base of manufacturing upon which to capitalise on; a talented workforce and a strong track record for results. Allowing for the need for greater collaboration, we are building an emerging competency in R&D through academic/industry collaborations, which will assist in maintaining Ireland's position as a logical choice for investment. However these benefits will be lost unless we aggressively tackle competitiveness issues and eliminate waste. Ultimately it is not about how much we make, but what we make, how well we make it and crucially at what cost. Future economic success depends on Ireland retaining and attracting high end manufacturing projects, at the forefront of R&D".
Today's event was organised by the Lemass International Forum which was established to recognise the inspiration and achievements of Sean Lemass (Taoiseach from 1959-1966), and to promote innovative ways of thinking about the future and meeting current challenges. Other participants in today's conference included Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister for Science Technology & Innovation, Barry O'Leary Chief Executive of IDA Ireland, and the Forum's patron T.K. Whittaker who served as secretary of the Department of Finance under Lemass.
Alexander recognised the role of Lemass stating that his company Hewlett-Packard set up "Inkjet Manufacturing site in Leixlip in 1995/96, as a direct result of the far reaching policies of the Lemass Government and TK Whittaker, who realised that enticing Foreign Companies to locate in Ireland, through low Corporation Tax and Grant Aid was the path to future growth.
Published: 9th September 2010.