EVERY visit by a potential Foreign and Direct Investment (FDI) client to Waterford and the South East is different, according to IDA South East Regional Manager Brendan McDonald.
“There’s not a template as such that we roll out,” he told the Waterford News & Star. “But in terms of how we co-ordinate the time companies spend here, that does come with a certain tried and tested method to it. We have created a go-to playbook over the 70 years that the IDA has existed, and it’s served us well.”
When it comes to company visits, Brendan McDonald said: “We have a certain amount of time with company representatives; we could get a half-day, we could get a full day or it might be three hours. But what we try to do is to set up meetings to maximise the time that the executives spend here. So depending on what they want to look into, we’ll take a deeper dive into that. They may want to look at comparable industries – not necessarily direct competitors – they may want to look at the graduate pool, they may want to look at the R&D scene, they may want to look at the totality of other companies that are here and how they would fit into that ecosystem. It might be very attractive for them to be a first mover in a particular industry or to be the go-to company of choice – the bigger fish in the smaller location, so that’s very attractive to them as well.”
Mr McDonald and his team organise back-to-back meetings with clients “on the hour, every hour” during visits to Waterford. “We bring them to lunch, we have dinner guests at dinner so they’re working here for the full day which allows us to pack in as much as we can to showcase the region.
“Depending on what stage of the investment process they’re at, be it at the initial stage where they’re looking at Ireland as a location within Europe or they may be a little further along the line, where they know that they want to do a specific function within Ireland. And if we can get them here to do that, we can then showcase other functions; say they want to do sales here, we can show them a finance function or a shared services centre or if they’re doing R&D, we could bring them to the TSSG (in Carriganore) or PMBRC if they’re in life sciences. We try and tailor the visit as much as we can to get the maximum for them, for their time and to showcase the region in its best possible light.”
Meanwhile, Waterford’s proximity to Dublin comes with potential advantages to potential FDI clients, according to Brendan McDonald.
Referring to the Texas State Investment Charter, Mr McDonald said: “There was a tagline in it which said ‘Austin to Houston – Only Four Hours’. So when you consider matters from a global perspective, travelling two hours down the M9 for some people who are used to driving a couple of hours to an international airport or to an airport that’s local to them, within their State, and then have to fly to an international hub to get a connection to Europe, that’s not a problem for them.”
Mr McDonald added: “I’m living in Carlow Town and I do an hour’s commute each way to Waterford every day and I’m continuously making the point to whoever will listen that people will drive the hour for the job that they want to be in and I don’t see that as a problem for Waterford. However, if I’m going an hour the other way to Dublin, I won’t get past Naas. I think we’re speaking to the converted in Ireland and the job now is to try and convert that into the minds of those capable of investing those investment dollars into Ireland and to showcase that. So when we get them here, we very much sell that proposition and we’re very thankful to the stakeholders in the South East and in Waterford who help us to sell the city, county and region when we get the companies to come here.”
Mr McDonald confirmed that some senior executives among the region’s 76 multinational companies continue to use Waterford Airport via private jet.
“And of course if there was more connectivity in the South East through the airport, that would be beneficial but as things stand we also have three international airports within two hours of Waterford so we’d never play ourselves down from that perspective. Connectivity in and out of the region remains very positive but anything which would further improve that would of course be welcome.”
IDA South East Regional Manager Brendan McDonald.