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Colorado and Ireland Linking to Supercharge Business

Thriving business climates reflect a synergistic trend as local firms expand markets globally


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Colorado has its Silicon Mountain, while Ireland is the location of the Silicon Docks. But while the two places might be 4,400 miles apart, they're united in an effort to accelerate the advancement and growth of high-potential young Colorado tech companies. The thriving business climate in both locations reflects a synergistic trend as U.S. firms expanding their markets are locating their European offices in Ireland, with the Irish government doing all it can to support such activities.

A number of Colorado companies including Level 3 Communications, Otter Products, Webroot, Graebel, Emergentics and Paragon 28 have located offices or their European headquarters in Ireland, positioning themselves to serve the vast, lucrative European market and nearby regions. These growth-minded Colorado firms are following in the footsteps of dozens of American tech companies that have set up shop in Ireland in recent years, from A (Apple, Accenture, Amazon, Analog Devices, Airbnb) to Z (Zazzle and Zendesk).  A few other notable firms in Ireland include Cisco, Facebook, Dell, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter, Slack, Uber and Looker.

According to CEO Bill Graebel, the company's opening in September of its new European HQ was a strategic addition for Graebel Companies, headquartered in Denver.

"Ireland gives Graebel a strong gateway to the European market," Graebel says. "Our location in Dundalk will allow us to better serve our international clients and their employees' needs as we provide the duty of care that is central to our values."

WHY IRELAND?

It's no accident that Colorado firms and other American companies are opening offices in Ireland. Successive Irish governments have instituted business-friendly policies and invested heavily to develop infrastructure to attract foreign companies. Free higher education, favorable tax rates, a 25 percent R&D tax credit and government funding of collaborative programs between companies, academia and state agencies have established a fruitful environment to do business.

Ireland already has the advantage of a young, highly educated workforce that encompasses people from many nations, which, coupled with no cap on the equivalent of H-1B visas, appeals to foreign companies seeking to staff up. In fact, Ireland has the third largest international workforce in Europe – one in eight households in Ireland do not speak English (or Irish!, called Gaelic in the U.S.) at home, demonstrating the truly multicultural nature of the workforce.  After Brexit, Ireland became the only English-speaking country in the European Union and keeps delivering the EU's fastest-growing economy. According to Ireland's Central Statistics Office, at the end of 2016 there were 124,000 people working directly in the multinational technology sector in Ireland, which doesn't include domestic technology firms, so foreign high-tech companies are thriving in the country. 

LOOKING FOR AN EMEA GATEWAY

For Graebel, the recent establishment of the European headquarters in Ireland will help beef up its business in Africa and the Middle East as well as Europe. Graebel provides relocation, move management and commercial services to Fortune 500, Global 100 and emerging companies, offering a wide range of services such as program management, supplier management, records storage and more, operating in 165 countries worldwide.

Just opened in Ireland is Graebel's EMEA Financial Shared Services and Operations Center, providing a broad range of finance functions across multiple levels of experience, including general ledger, treasury and compliance, as well as customer support roles.  The company plans to increase the staffing in its new Irish location, now recruiting for the 125 positions that will be in place in three years.

SUPPORTING DATA BEHEMOTHS

Network giant Level 3 Communications, headquartered in Broomfield, opened its Irish facility several years before Graebel, but was also attracted to the flourishing commercial environment in Ireland. Seeing U.S. data companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and others opening European headquarters in Dublin near the River Liffey -- which came to be called Silicon Docks as a result -- made it apparent that providing connectivity and data centers to these large firms had great potential.

Level 3 committed to invest more than 1 million euros annually in a state-of-the-art metro network in Dublin, demonstrating its prowess as a "carrier's carrier" serving worldwide tech companies.  In fact, Level 3 acquired tier-one provider Global Crossing in 2011 to further this objective and is now one of the major infrastructure carriers and service providers connecting Ireland with the world.

According to the former president of Level 3’s European markets group, James Heard, his company made the move to Ireland to pursue opportunities in the data communications space, with particular promise in the video realm. Level 3 is well known for delivering Netflix and Apple music and video content over the internet. Level 3 is now being acquired by CenturyLink, the third-largest telecommunications company in the U.S. in terms of lines served.

BROAD EXPERTISE IN EUROPEAN OFFICE

Broomfield-based internet security innovator Webroot chose Dublin for its European headquarters knowing Ireland would simplify recruiting for the various disciplines needed in its office, which includes sales, support, marketing, financial services, engineering and other areas. The company's former vice president of worldwide sales and operations, Justin Endres said at the time, "The city of Dublin offers a highly talented workforce, an extraordinary culture and a diverse array of thriving industries. The opening of our new downtown office is exciting for a number of reasons; not only is it a world-class facility designed to accommodate our ongoing growth, but the location is geographically ideal for servicing our partners and customers across EMEA." The company hired 50 workers during its first two years and has expanded its staff since then. Considered a strategically important part of its worldwide operation, the Dublin office broadened the functions originally located there as the operation increased its contribution to European bookings.

HELPING PROPEL GROWTH

As smartphones have become standard tools for so many people, companies like Fort Collins-based Otter Products that supply accessories for this market have seen expansive growth. The company makes water-, shock- and drop-resistant OtterBox cases for mobile devices, including those from Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, Microsoft and others. Known as a great place to work, Otter needed a springboard to support broadening foreign sales in 2010 when it chose Ireland.

Like other Colorado companies locating in Ireland, Otter Products had its eye on the European, African and Middle Eastern markets for its products, selecting offices in Ireland to manage this expansion. According to former managing director of EMEA Matt Clark, "As the company expands, we are looking to firmly establish a presence in the EMEA market. We are in a better position now to keep up with the trends of this region and deliver exactly what our customers need.”

The Irish office has its own sales, accounting, public relations and human resources departments, thus requiring a skilled, multi-disciplinary talent pool. Initially pegged as an office with 50 professionals, the staff has grown since that time as sales have expanded. Otter Products has been on the Inc. list of fastest-growing private companies for several years.

Much like larger players, younger high-growth companies like Paragon 28, a privately held medical device company focused on foot and ankle orthopedics, one of the fastest-growing companies in this space chose Ireland as their base to expand into the EMEA market. Paragon 28 picked Ireland due to the talent available, world-class universities, pro-business environment and overall culture. Albert DaCosta, president and CEO of Paragon 28, said at the time, “We look forward to recreating the success we have built in the U.S. in Ireland and capturing and infusing into our workplace the essence of Ireland’s unique and beautiful culture. The people of Ireland have been so welcoming and supportive, confirming we made the correct decision.”

On a similar growth path, Emergenetics from Denver set up its EMEA HQ in Dublin city center to scale and strengthen its presence in Europe. Morgan Browning, president of the company, said they chose Dublin due to the business-friendly environment, dynamic, highly skilled talent base and community, as well as the services surrounding companies like them. 

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