Read below letter to the editor from John McGrane, Executive Director of the Family Business Network.
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article “Ireland would not be viable without 10 big US corporations” (Opinion & Analysis, January 15th) ominously paints a more divided economy than is real. But there are indeed differences in Ireland’s policy approach to indigenous and foreign-owned employers.
Of course we value the taxes we earn from foreign direct investors and their contribution reflects decades of Ireland’s strategic incentivising of the foreign-owned sector. Our economy is, however, about more than just tax collection; our home-grown businesses employ more than twice the combined numbers working in the aggregate of foreign direct investors and the public sector.
These jobs, typically provided by Ireland’s family-owned employers, sustain community lives and livelihoods in the circular economy of every constituency. Indeed, economist John FitzGerald has shown that when we strip out foreign direct investment earnings that get repatriated to offshore owners, our indigenous employers have produced four times greater value for Ireland than foreign direct investors.
And, lest anyone think we’re a nation of small local businesses bereft of such major brands as the two which Fintan O’Toole observed on his visit to Denmark, Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs have produced some of the biggest businesses in the world. A Dane visiting here might equally be minded of such global household names as Ryanair, Smurfit Kappa, Kerry Group and Paddy Power. Or other perhaps less famous but no less impressive firms such as Portwest, Fexco and Dawn among the hundreds of Ireland’s homegrown employers who do us proud both at home and abroad.
We have countless unsung local family business heroes – many owned by the same family for generations – all of whom hire local, buy local, invest local and vote local.
Other countries use their laws and tax systems to keep their family firms investing and transitioning intact into the future. We should too.
Focusing substantial dedicated resources on the foreign direct investment sector has been a highly effective national strategy. Now it’s time to implement the recommendations of numerous agencies and place our indigenous businesses at the centre of Ireland’s industrial and enterprise policy. We should prudently be using tax windfalls from our foreign direct investment sector to maximise our competitiveness at home and abroad. We should invest in the facilitation of Ireland’s indigenous entrepreneurs and in the education of their successors. We should join the dots of regional planning and incentive policies to encourage reinvestment and longevity in our home-grown employers. And we should maximise the opportunities for indigenous firms to grow symbiotically alongside our foreign direct investors.
As Fintan O’Toole suggests, our foreign direct investors may come and go. But our indigenous employers are here for good.