Thursday, July 17, 2008

You Can Ring My Bell

The bell chimes and Wall Street opens for business. It's quite a show every morning in New York City, and freshly-minted Taoiseach Brian Cowen did the honors yesterday.

On his first official visit to the U.S., he went straight to the stock exchange, where the money is. Up on the podium, with the eyes of the traders on him, he clanged away. Ireland is open for business, let it be known in the halls of corporate America. We'd like your business.

The corporate tax rates are still low. Unfortunately, the labor costs are going up, and that's becoming a bit of a problem. Minimum wage in Ireland is far higher than its American equivalent, and when a firm is manufacturing widgets, they'd like to make those widgets as cheaply as possible.

Ireland has a well-educated labor force, very tech-oriented. It takes bright people to create computer technology and complex products that can't be cranked out in a sweatshop in Poland. Everyone who's high-tech, forward thinking and modern is doing it, An Taoiseach said. Everyone who's on the cutting edge is investing in Ireland. You don't want to be left out of the party.

Tourism Ireland is going along for the official ride, to encourage more people to visit the country and spend their dollars that just don't go very far any more. "Can you afford not to go?" the tourism people have taken to asking. Don't you want to see what a beautiful country your ancestors left? How else can you appreciate how very bad things were in Ireland when they left, after discovering what they gave up to come to America?

Not to worry about the global credit crunch and economic uncertainty. As Mr. Cowen assured everyone, Ireland will still be there, all resilient and creative, waiting for your visit once things settle down. In the meantime, feel free to bring your corporate profits overseas.

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