Continuing her tour around the country and looking at regional job creation by both multinationals and Irish firms, Emma McNamara is in Dundalk, Co Louth today. The focus here is on the high-tech sector after PayPay's recent jobs announcement for the town. Overall 166,000 people nationwide are now employed by the foreign sector that does international trade out of Ireland. These companies are supported by IDA Ireland and the sector has been growing over the last four years.
Barry O'Leary, chief executive of IDA Ireland, says the 400 new jobs at PayPal's operations in Dundalk will bring its total there to 1,400 in a few years time. He says the new PayPal positions will add more jobs in the general area through extra business at the town's coffee shops, retail outlets and other areas. He says there was very little investment in the area up to a few years ago, but now all that has changed for Dundalk and as well as the likes of PayPal, mid-sized companies like Stat Sports, Prometric, Radio Systems and National Pen also have operations there.
Prometric is a US company involved in the test administration industry. It operates a test centre network composed of over 10,000 sites in 160 countries. Prometric's director in Dundalk is Brendan Gallagher, who was the company's first employee in the town in 2011. Nine million people sit tests designed and built by Prometric every year. Their products include tests for driver theory, for working in European Institutions and accountancy. Mr Gallager says that while the company is US-based, its Dundalk operations is key to its overall business. Noting the large amount of people who commute from Dundalk to Dublin every day, he says it is great that companies like Prometric can set up operations in towns like Dundalk.
DigiWeb is one of the longest established independent hosting companies in Ireland. DigiWeb's Declan Campbell says the company started life in the regional development centre in Dundalk and then launched into broadband services in 2002. He says the company has seen a lot of organic growth over the last few years, as well as growth through acquisitions. Its turnover is set to reach €80m this year on operating profits of €10m. It has a total of 200 staff, based in Dundalk, Dublin, London and Paris.
Paddy Malone, from Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, says the industrial landscape has changed dramatically in Dundalk over the last few years. As a border town, it faces some unique challenges including the problems associated with the two currencies - sterling and euro - and different VAT rates. Mr Malone says the town is currently going through a boom time, but he would rather see a stable, sustainable situation. He points out that Newry experienced a boom a few years ago, but now has serious problems. Mr Malone also says that Dundalk businesses are trying to "reinvent" the town centre from a purely retail base to offer a bigger range of services, including entertainment.