IDA hits back after Athenry’s Apple failure
Mon 18 Jun 2018
The organisation in charge of promoting foreign investment into Ireland has claimed that data centres bring billions into the Irish economy after Apple backed out of its planned Athenry site following years of appeals and cancelled court dates.
The IDA’s report, titled A Study of the Economic Benefits of Data Centre Investment in Ireland, states that €7.13 billion (approx. £6.3 billion) has been invested in Ireland through the data centre industry since 2010.
Ireland is known as a base for data centres for multinational companies and is keen to consolidate this reputation. However, it suffered a bruising knockback after Apple ditched plans to build a campus at Athenry.
Apple’s decision came about as a result of constant appeals and poor organisation from the Irish court system. Having been initially appealed by local residents on environmental grounds, the application struggled to make its way through the system before Apple ran out of patience.
This was in spite of support from the majority of local residents in Athenry, who turned out in significant numbers at a rally. The Irish authorities also made an effort to create a fast-track scheme for data centre investment, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wooed Tim Cook – all to no avail.
The IDA’s arguments
Now, consultancy firm Grant Thornton has released its report, commissioned by the IDA, highlighting the various benefits of bringing data centres into the country.
According to the report, since developing its data centre industry, the country ‘has been at the forefront of the evolution of the digital ecosystem and has built a pedigree as a hub for global companies.’
As a result of this, it says, nine of the top ten worldwide IT corporations; all of the top ten pharmaceutical corporations; more than half of the world’s leading financial services firms; and sixteen of the top twenty global software companies now have a presence in the country.
The $7.13 billion figure of investment comes from four sources – construction and operating; direct and indirect. The largest of these is direct investment in construction, which has come to $2.69 billion since 2010.
The report also argues that job creation has been significant since the turn of the decade thanks to data centre investment. It states that an annual average of 5700 full-time equivalent roles has been created, with many in the construction industry which struggled in Ireland following the global downturn in 2008.
But the regulatory and planning environment still doesn’t seem especially friendly to multinationals. Major U.S. data centre builder CyrusOne has had its application held up by demands for energy analysis by lobby group An Taisce as well as esoteric requirements like a bat survey.
Ireland’s success or failure in attracting multinationals may depend on eliminating small but significant roadblocks such as these. It remains to be seen if it will be successful in this.