Dublin is pictured on 18 June. The pro-business culture shared between Utah and Ireland has led several Utah-based companies to expand into Ireland to reach a European market. (Aoife Kimber)
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SALT LAKE CITY – At first glance there don’t seem to be many similarities between Utah and Ireland.
For starters, Ireland, the birthplace of Oscar Wilde and the home of Guinness Beer, is a European island state. Apparently a long way from Utah, a landlocked US state known for its red sandstone formations and the “largest snow on Earth”.
However, there is a link between the two that is perpetuated by a shared pro-business culture between the Utahns and the Irish. This culture has led several Utah-based companies to expand into Ireland to reach a European market.
“Utah companies have also found that Ireland is an excellent source of global leadership. Ireland has been that wonderful kind of bridge to Europe for Utah companies for nearly 30 years,” said David Brody. vice president of technology for IDA Ireland.
IDA Ireland’s goal is to encourage foreign-owned companies to invest in Ireland by offering support to such companies.
“Utah companies can scale their operations there with the availability of talent (in Ireland) quite easily and it’s also a great location as they try to build great cultures and transfer that culture they developed to Utah,” Brody said. .
Utah companies that have expanded into Ireland include:
- Utah doctor: Many of Utah Medical’s international distributors are served from its European facility located in Athlone, Ireland. Built in 1996, this 77,000 square foot facility is designed for manufacturing and packaging of medical devices and has space that can be dedicated to customer needs. The facility is specially configured for the treatment of disposable medical devices and electro-medical equipment.
- Medical merit: Merit Medical, based in southern Jordan, is a leader in disposable inflation and hemostasis devices. In 1993, Merit opened an Irish manufacturing plant, which initially employed 22 people. This number has since increased to around 1,000 workers, located in the heart of Ireland’s thriving Medtech cluster in Galway, Ireland. Merit was named Irish Medical Technology Company of the Year in 2018, with the Irish facility contributing 33% to revenue in 2017.
- ZAGG: The Salt Lake City-based manufacturer and distributor of mobile communications accessories established a European Service Center in 2014, creating 300 jobs in the Shannon Free Zone, an international business park in Ireland.
- Ancestry.com: The largest family history resource in the world in 2012 signed a lease on a property in Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, from where it operates its international operations.
- Storage: This Draper-based disaster recovery specialist in 2013 opened a new international office in Cork, Ireland, with a team in IT support, marketing and human resources.
- Qualtrics: Provo-based Qualtrics established its first European headquarters in 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. Qualtrics’ growth rate quickly surpassed its 27,000 square feet and expanded into an adjacent building. It continues to expand its team to more than 700 employees.
- Plural view: Pluralsight, a Farmington-based developer of online training courses for software and creative professionals, opened its headquarters in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in Dublin in 2018.
- Overload: Midvale’s homeware e-commerce leader in 2019 announced that it was expanding the team at its new European headquarters in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. The company opened its first Irish office in 2013 and invested € 1 million in its new state-of-the-art facility in 2019 to continue attracting top talent. Overstock’s location in Sligo offers employees a reasonable cost of living, minimal commute times, and easy access to some of the world’s most impressive outdoor activities.
- Ivanti: This IT company based in southern Jordan serves customers around the world and their headquarters in Europe, the Middle East and Africa are located in Dublin, Ireland.
- doTerra: DoTerra essential oil giant in 2020 chose Ireland as the location of its first manufacturing facility outside the U.S. The Irish operation serves as doTerra’s European manufacturing headquarters and manufactures and distributes doTerra products to the market European and provides greater capacity to serve other international markets, including the Middle East and Africa.
Brody talked about the cultural parallels between Utah and Ireland that make Ireland an attractive landing place for companies looking to expand into international markets.
One of these parallels can be found in the demographic similarities. Utah has the youngest median age of any state in the United States and Ireland has the youngest median age of any country in the European Union.
“That young, growing and well-educated workforce is really what keeps us at the forefront of investment decisions in Europe,” said Brody.
Additionally, there are social and cultural factors that attract Utah businesses to Ireland.
“Ireland is a very family-centric place, it’s a really welcoming place where there is a real love of the outdoors and I think that resonates quite well with Utah too,” said Brody. “In Ireland there are mountains, surfing or golf, while in Utah there could be mountains, skiing, golf and whatnot.”
Ryan Smith, owner of Utah Jazz and founder of Qualtrics, would agree with these sentiments, as he joked with the Irish Times in 2016 that his grandmother had made him invest in Ireland.
“It’s the only place he’d let us go,” Smith said.
Utah’s trade link with Ireland is not a one-way street, Brody said. For a US company looking to expand into international markets, Ireland offers experience, stability and support.
“Utah companies need to serve their European customers and to do that, you have to do it in the marketplace and you have to provide them with multilingual support and you have to be a little bit close to where your customers are,” said Brody.
As an island nation, Ireland naturally looks outward to grow its economy.
“Foreign direct investment is incredibly important to our economy,” said Brody. “We are very envious of the number of unicorns (Utah) and the number of technology companies (Utah).”
With so many companies from Utah (and the United States) migrating business operations to Ireland, Brody said the influx of companies leads to increased employment in Ireland, which in turn benefits the Irish economy.
As for the future of business relations between Utah and Ireland, Brody thinks the best is yet to come.
“I think there is huge potential for new emerging Utah companies to learn from their colleagues within Utah and somehow learn what works. We would be delighted to engage with more Utah companies,” Brody said.
Brody said he “has never seen a place like Utah” when he comes to the ambition to build world-leading companies.
“I think to do that, you have to scale your operations outside of Utah as well and there is no better place to do it than Ireland when looking to Europe,” said Brody.
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