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Irish Business Climate Ranked High on Both Sides of the Atlantic Back  
How do American and European business executives feel about Ireland's business climate these days? Quite favorably, according to a recent survey our firm conducted on both sides of the Atlantic. Ireland was ranked second in the survey, outpaced by the United Kingdom, but comfortably ahead of Germany, Spain and The Netherlands, which rounded out the top five, respectively.

Polling 427 senior-level executives in both manufacturing and service industries the survey was conducted by our firm, a 39-year-old economic development marketing agency based in New York City, in partnership with the Atlanta-based International Development Research Council (IDRC), the world's leading association of corporate real estate executives and site selection consultants. A follow-up to DCI's 1996 study, the survey included both European business leaders and questions regarding European countries for the first time.

Survey respondents included presidents/CEO's, vice presidents and senior corporate real estate executives at companies with annual sales in excess of $100 million - 80% above $500 million -- and at least 250 employees. U.S. executives represented 77% of the respondents, with the remaining 23% from Europe. Manufacturing companies accounted for 41% of the respondents, non-manufacturing, 59%. Among the many questions we posed were two separate ones that asked the respondents to identify three European nations they felt were the "best" for business, and three they regarded as the "worst."

Among the "best," 48% of the respondents wrote in "Ireland," behind the U.K. (66%) but way ahead of Germany (36%), Spain (29%) and The Netherlands (27%). When the response of U.S. executives was taken by itself, Ireland was ranked even more favorably, with 52 % of the respondents saying the country has one of the top business climates in Europe. That put it a percentage point closer to the U.K. (65%) and still leagues ahead of the other three nations rounding out the top five. Among the countries perceived as having the "worst" business climates in Europe, Ireland was a happy non-contender, with only 6% of the executives putting Ireland down in response to that question. Greece (45%) was perceived the worst, followed by France (39%), Italy (31%) Germany (29%) and Portugal (17%).

(Note: because of the way we posed the separate questions, it was possible for Germany to rank both third "best" and fourth "worst." Asked to rank U.S. states, the executives assessed California as both second best and second worst.)

What accounts for Ireland's strong showing, not only in Europe but across the board? That's a question we didn't ask in the survey. But based on our knowledge and the collective experience of more than 250 clients over the years, we can make a few educated guesses.
For one, in the midst of what has been called a "dot com" economy, Ireland has developed a reputation for good, hi-tech businesses and innovation. A second reason for Ireland's strength in our survey may be found in some of the other questions we asked elsewhere in the survey. Among them was "what are the three leading sources of information?" that influence an executive's perception of a state or region's business climate. "Dialogue with industry peers" was #1, followed by "articles in newspapers and magazines," and "business travel." Although our data don't show this, one can surmise that Ireland is getting more than its fair share of all three - good word of mouth from its own corporate citizens, good publicity in the international media, and positive experiences by those who travel there on business.

Whatever the reasons, there is decidedly an "up arrow" in the corporate perception of Ireland these days. And economic development professionals there might be well advised to seize the day and make hay while there's abundant sunshine. And certainly one component of that should be a strong marketing presence in both the U.S. and Europe. If our survey is any guide, you'd be pushing on an open door.

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