ESRI conference shows Galway as top performer in foreign firm job creation
By Martina Nee
The gateway city of Galway has been named as the best performer in terms of employment generated by foreign firms in the last 10 years with its concentration and growth of medical device companies being cited as the main factor behind this success.
Despite the economic recession Galway, along with Cork and Dublin, has emerged as a success story representing 82 per cent of jobs created by new foreign firms in the country between 2001 and 2011. The figures were revealed on Tuesday at the ‘Regional Studies Association: Ten Years On: Revisiting the National Spatial Strategy’ conference in Dublin which was jointly organised by the ERSI and the Irish Branch of the Regional Studies Association. The aim of the conference was to explore the background to the current National Spatial Strategy, evaluate socio-economic developments in the 10 years since the introduction of the strategy and identify the implications of contemporary population, settlement, and economic trends.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Dr Chris Van Egeraat, economic geographer with the Department of Geography at NUI Maynooth and chair of the Irish branch of the Regional Studies Association, explained that only two gateway cities benefitted from National Spatial Strategy (introduced in 2002) and they were Galway and Cork.
“The strategy was aimed at diverging investment away from Dublin to the gateway cities. Overall (during the period of 2001 and 2011) there was a decrease in employment in the country but Galway actually experienced a growth of 12.5 per cent. The hub town of Tuam also gained in employment. In terms of the overall share of employment Galway represented an increase of 20 per cent, making it the second largest after Cork in this area.
“Then when we looked at the employment generated by foreign companies coming into Ireland - Galway was the best performer with an increase of 20 per cent. When you compare this to Dundalk or Limerick which lost 40 per cent, Galway did extremely well. In Tuam there was an increase of 40 per cent in employment in this area, the second best of all the hub towns,” said Dr Van Egeraat.
Dr Van Egeraat, a co-writer of the study, then explained that when assessing the effect of the National Spatial Strategy, particularly focus was placed on new companies that established themselves since 2001. The research found that of the new firms that came into Ireland between 2001 and 2011 Galway had a four per cent share making it the fourth biggest. Galway had an even bigger impact when it came to employment generated by foreign firms between the same period representating a share of eight per cent overall making it the third biggest performer after Cork (18 per cent) and Dublin (53 per cent).
According to Dr Van Egeraat, Galway’s success in attracting employment - particularly those generated by foreign firms - over the past 10 years has been mainly due to is specialisation in the medical device sector.
“This has resulted in an increasing concentration of the medical device sector in Galway and a strong increase in foreign direct investment. Galway happened to be a cluster for one of the industries doing well internationally,” he said Dr Van Egeraat.
Figures show that between 2001 and 2011 the number of firms in the medical device sector grew from 23 to 38 and that the employment generated grew from 6,500 to 9,500 before stabilising at around 11,000 in 2006.