Ireland House, the First Irish Consulate in Texas, Opens in Austin

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Sean Storan, vice president, Patrick M. Howlin, executive vice president and director of North America and Gerard Hayes, vice president, with IDA Ireland, which is opening a new office in downtown Austin.

Sean Storan, vice president, Patrick M. Howlin, executive vice president and director of North America and Gerard Hayes, vice president, with IDA Ireland, which is opening a new office in downtown Austin.

Austin’s booming tech sector is prompting Ireland to open a consulate and trade office in Austin, its first in Texas and only the seventh in the U.S.

The office, dubbed Ireland House, will be housed in the Bank of America building on Congress Ave. It will contain a new consulate, offices for the Investment Development Agency, known as IDA Ireland, government direct investment agency into Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, the country’s economic development agency. The office will have from six to eight employees initially.

“We’re trying to create an awareness here that the Irish government has a presence here in the state,” said Patrick M. Howlin, executive vice president and director of North America for IDA Ireland.

The other offices are in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Mountain View, Irvine, Calif. and Austin. They have 36 people throughout those offices.

Gerard Hayes, vice president, and Sean Storan, vice president of technology, will head up the Austin office for IDA Ireland. Hayes will focus on smaller and early stage tech development companies and Storan will work with bigger companies. Enda Meehan, based in Chicago, will oversee the Austin office.

“When companies are looking at international expansion that’s a big decision for any company,” Howlin said. They look at a lot of factors and one is they want stability in the country they locate in.

“Ireland has a very long track record as being the initial host location for companies expanding into Europe,” Howlin said.

Dell has three facilities in Ireland in Dublin, Limerick and Cork and has been doing business there since 1990. SolarWinds, Dropbox and BMC Software and other tech companies with an Austin presence also have operations in Ireland.

Other tech giants like Google, Facebook, SAP, Intel, IBM, Saleforce, Siemens, HP, Microsoft all have offices in Ireland.

Ireland has the availability of a wide talent pool for companies to tap into, Howlin said. And the country has research institutions and provides a cost competitive environment and a good tax structure for international companies, Howlin said. The Irish corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent, less than half of the rate in the United Kingdom, according to IDA Ireland.

“There’s also a lot of similarities between Austin and Dublin,” said Hayes. “It’s a tech cluster similar to Austin.”

Dublin calls its tech hub “Silicon Docks,’’ the shipping and warehouse district which is being converted into a big tech hub.

The direct flight on British Airways from Austin to London takes just nine hours and then people can take direct flights to Dublin from there, Hayes said. It’s really easy to get there, he said. Direct flights to Ireland are available from Washington, New York and Chicago.

The new Ireland House will cater to technology companies looking to put a footprint in Europe to service their customers there as well as companies with existing operations in Ireland, Howlin said.

“Ireland is also home to a significant number of life sciences companies,” Howlin said. They will explore opportunities to do business as Austin grows its life sciences industry with the new Dell Medical School, he said.

Enterprise Ireland will work with Irish companies that are looking to get a foothold in the U.S.

Austin already has a big Irish community, Hayes said. The city has a social club, started in 2004, called the Celtic Cowboys with more than 500 members. The Irish Network also opened a formal networking group in Austin last fall.

Ireland also has a conference called The Web Summit, which started five years ago and has been dubbed as the South by Southwest of Europe. It attracted 500 participants its first year and 20,000 in 2014.

Ireland will have a presence at Startup Village at South by Southwest in March.

“There’s already significant U.S. investment in Ireland,” Howlin said. “It’s a key factor that has helped us come through the difficult times we’ve had.”

Ireland is expanding its offices all over the U.S. to better serve U.S. companies, Howlin said. Today, 1,033 overseas companies have operations in Ireland with 161,112 employees and 531 of those companies come from the U.S.

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