The West’s Awake

The MBNA building at Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim

Bucking a century-old trend, the West of Ireland now appeals to Americans and U.S. companies to come live, work and set up businesses there.

Reversing a century-old trend of emigration from the West of Ireland to the U.S., the Western Development Commission (WDC), the state body charged with promoting the economic and social development of the Western Region, is spreading its Look West message to the U.S., and highlighting the advantages of its successful economy and the great quality of life.

Speaking to Irish America, Gillian Buckley, WDC’s CEO, said, “The Western Region is a great place to live, work, visit and do business. The success of the Irish economy has greatly benefited the West. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the region has been transformed. There is a dramatic change from the West of Ireland that many previous generations were forced to leave due to poor economic circumstances. It is now a modern, progressive society with an economy that offers a great quality of life but has retained its sense of community and neighborliness.”

Buckley added, “Our work includes promoting the West, as a great place to live, work and do business. We do this pri- marily through our Look West campaign and by working in partnership with other state agencies and the private sector to communicate the message that the West is very much open for business. The Look West website  has been very successful in drawing attention to the benefits of life in the West, and almost 150,000 people have accessed the site since its launch in 2005.

The West of Ireland is a pro-enterprise environment, with low levels of corporation tax and high levels of productivity. Within the region there are already several leading world and U.S. companies operating very successfully in sectors including medical devices, financial services, life sciences and software development. These include Hewlett Packard, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Baxter, MBNA, and Pramerica.

“As well as the region being attractive from an economic and taxation perspective, employers have been rewarded with a highly-educated work force and there is significant demand from young educated people to work in the region. Our research shows that 65 percent of those who have registered a desire to relocate are under 35, with 77 percent of them having a third or fourth level qualification,” stated Buckley. People are attracted to the better quality of life which the area offers. For many the move is a positive career choice, with the majority of respondents already working in leading industries including financial services, medical devices and ICT. There is a synergy between the needs of U.S. companies wishing to expand overseas and the desire among educated young people to work in the West.

In the last four years the West experienced an increase in population for the first time since the famine, with an increase of 40,000 people from inward migration to the region.

Americans have shown a clear interest in the Look West message, and thousands of them spoke to the WDC about the move at the Fás Jobs Ireland event in New York in 2006.

The West enjoys a clean environment, wonderful scenery, a great range of sporting and leisure activities, and better value for money housing than in other parts of Ireland. It is also a great place to raise a family, with more family time, smaller class sizes and a greater sense of security and community.

It is a vibrant, exciting place to live and work, with bustling gateway cities, thriving towns, regenerated rural areas and continuing infrastructural improvements in roads, airports and telecommunications.

Buckley concluded, “The West of Ireland has a lot to offer to U.S. based companies whose expansion plans will depend in part on the availability of a well educated work force and who wish to operate in an attractive business environment.”

For more information on the West of Ireland Development Commission check out the following websites: http://www.wdc.ie and www.lookwest.ie ♦

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