Balla man sells Ireland in Boston
The old adage that business works both ways is being put to an effective test with the growth of Irish–US partnership in the world of trade.
Right at the cutting edge of the mission of transforming Irish industry is a young Balla man who now heads up the operation of Enterprise Ireland in Boston.
Seán McEllin (pictured) is the regional vice-president for Enterprise Ireland, working out of Boston where his work is increasingly focused on a two-way exchange of opportunity and investment across the Atlantic.
Boston is by now second home to the Mayoman who is still in his mid-thirties, but who has developed an impressive list of personal and business contacts after almost 20 years in New England.
It all started for him when, just out of secondary school at home, came the offer of an athletic scholarship to the prestigious Boston College.
He had been showing huge promise as an athlete on the home turf, and the offer from Boston College, steeped in athletic achievement, was one he could not refuse. Over the following three years, while he studied for his business degree, he became part of the college’s award-winning relay squad, taking an array of American national awards. A career in international athletics seemed to beckon, but the recurring ligament injury which had hampered his final year in Boston College finally forced him to quit the athletic track.
But by now other opportunities were presenting themselves. The doors of commerce were readily accessible to Boston College graduates. The young Mayoman made the decision to shelve his original intention of returning home, opting instead to remain where he had made new friends and had developed what were to be valuable business contacts. The world of financial services offered him his first employment and, as a financial analyst and funds manager, gave him an insight into the decision-making process of corporate America.
Meanwhile, in 1999, Enterprise Ireland had set up its Boston office. Within a short time, Seán McEllin had been recruited to the Boston office, becoming its regional vice-president in 2002.
To judge by the recent full page profile accorded him in the Boston Herald, it’s a job which he thoroughly enjoys. The main theme of his message to the American business community is that Enterprise Ireland is not trying to take jobs away from the United States. The relationship, he says, works both ways. It helps Irish companies expend into global markets – often by helping them find strategic business partners in New England – as well as easing the way for US companies who find Ireland the ideal base to break into the European market.
It’s all about interaction, he says. The US offers a huge market for both large and small Irish companies which want to develop, and equally, Ireland provides the stepping stone for American companies seeking to break into Europe.
He cites one recent example of where Stonyfield Farm in New Hampshire, the third largest yoghurt brand in the US, joined forces with the Irish dairy producer, Glenisk, to form a transatlantic partnership. The sales and marketing expertise of Stonyfield will link with the manufacturing capability of Glenisk to open up huge new opportunities for both in straddling the Atlantic.
McEllin is happy too to remind his Boston audience that the traffic is not all one-way.
Almost 500 American companies have main offices in Ireland employing 90,000 Irish workers. But there are 300 Irish companies with a presence in the United States, and they employ an estimated 55,000 workers.
The attraction of Ireland as a base for European operations is a major factor in the transatlantic business twinnings, says Seán McEllin.
“There’s strong foreign investment, a healthy industry base funded by the Government, a corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent, intellectual property laws, along with proximity to Europe and the advantage that people speak English”, he says.
“It’s the most attractive place of all for foreign investment.”