Utah companies leveraging cultural parallels with Ireland to move into the European market

Dublin is pictured on June 18. The pro-business culture shared among Utah and Ireland has led several Utah-based companies to expand into Ireland to reach a European market. (Aoife Kimber)

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — There don’t appear to be many similarities between Utah and Ireland at first glance.

For starters, Ireland — the birthplace of Oscar Wilde and home of Guinness Beer — is a European island country. Seemingly a far cry from Utah, a landlocked US state best known for its red sandstone formations and the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

However, there is a link between the two that is perpetuated by a pro-business culture that is shared among Utahns and Irish folks. This culture has led several Utah-based companies to expand into Ireland to reach a European market.

“Utah companies have also found Ireland to be a great source for global leadership. Ireland is that wonderful kind of bridge to Europe for Utah companies for almost 30 years,” David Brody, vice president of technology for IDA Ireland said.

IDA Ireland’s objective is to encourage investment into Ireland by foreign-owned companies by offering support for said companies.

“Utah companies can scale their operations there with the availability of the talent (in Ireland) pretty easily and it’s also a great location as they look to build great cultures and to transfer that culture that they’ve developed in Utah,” Brody said.

Utah companies that have expanded to Ireland include:

  • Utah Medical: Many of Utah Medical’s international distributors are serviced by its European facility located in Athlone, Ireland. Constructed in 1996, this 77,000 square foot facility is designed for the manufacture and packaging of medical devices and features space that can be dedicated to clients’ needs. The The facility is specially configured to process medical disposables and electro-medical equipment.
  • Merit Medical: Merit Medical, based in South Jordan, is a leader in single-use inflation and hemostasis devices. In 1993, Merit opened an Irish manufacturing plant, initially employing 22 people. This number has since increased to around 1,000 workers, located at the heart of Ireland’s thriving Medtech cluster in Galway, Ireland. Merit was named Ireland’s Medtech Company of the Year in 2018, with the Irish plant having contributed 33% of revenue in 2017.
  • ZAGG: The Salt Lake City-based mobile communications accessory manufacturer and distributor in 2014 established a European Services Centre, creating 300 jobs in the Shannon Free Zone, an international business park in Ireland.
  • The world’s largest family history resource in 2012 signed a lease on property at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin from where it runs its International operations.
  • StorageCraft: This Draper-based disaster recovery specialist in 2013 opened new International Headquarters in Cork, Ireland, with a team in IT Support, marketing and human resources.
  • Qualtrics: Provo-based Qualtrics established its first European headquarters in 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. The rate of Qualtrics’ growth quickly outgrew its 27,000-square foot premises and expanded into an adjacent building. It continues to scale its team to more than 700 employees.
  • Pluralsight: Pluralsight, a Draper-based developer of online training courses for software and creative professionals, opened its Europe, Middle East and Africa headquarters in Dublin in 2018.
  • Overstock: The e-commerce homegoods leader from Midvale in 2019 announced that it was expanding the team at its new European headquarters in Sligo, on the west coast of Ireland. The company set up its first Irish office in 2013 and in 2019, invested €1 million in its new state-of-the-art facility in order to continue attracting top outdoor talent. Overstock’s location in Sligo affords employees a reasonable cost of living, minimal commuting times and easy access to some of the world’s most impressive activities.
  • Ivanti: This South Jordan-based IT company serves clients worldwide and their Europe, Middle East and Africa headquarter is in Dublin, Ireland.
  • doTerra: Essential oil giant doTerra in 2020 selected Ireland as the location for their first manufacturing facility outside of the US The Irish operation serves as doTerra’s European Manufacturing Headquarters and manufactures and distributes doTerra products to the European marketplace and provides increased capacity to serve other international markets, including the Middle East and Africa.

Cultural similarities

Brody talked about cultural parallels between Utah and Ireland that make Ireland an appealing landing spot for businesses looking to expand into international markets.

One of these parallels can be found in demographic similarities. Utah has the youngest median age of any state in the US and Ireland has the youngest median age among all European Union countries.

“That young, growing, well-educated workforce is really kind of what keeps us at the forefront of investment decisions into Europe,” Brody said.

Additionally, there are social and cultural factors that draw Utah companies to Ireland.

“Ireland is a very family-focused place, it’s a really friendly place where there’s a real love of the outdoors and I think that kind of resonates quite well with Utah as well,” Brody said. “In Ireland, it’s mountains, surfing or golf, whereas in Utah it might be mountains, skiing and golf and whatever else.”

Utah Jazz owner and Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith would agree with these sentiments, as he joked with the Irish Times in 2016 that his grandmother made him invest in Ireland.

“It’s the only place she would let us go,” Smith said.

The Utah business connection with Ireland isn’t a one-way street, Brody said. For a US company trying to expand into international markets, Ireland offers experience, stability and support.

“Utah companies have a need where they need to service their European customers and to do that, you need to do it in-market and you have to give them multilingual support and you have to be kind of close to where your customers are,” Brody said.

As an island nation, Ireland naturally looks outward to grow its economy.

“Foreign direct investment is incredibly important to our economy,” Brody said. “We’re very envious of the amount of unicorns (Utah) has and the amount of tech companies (Utah) has.”

With so many Utah (and US) companies migrating business operations to Ireland, Brody said that the influx of companies leads to increased employment in Ireland, in turn benefiting the Irish economy.

As for the future of business relations between Utah and Ireland, Brody thinks the best is yet to come.

“I think there’s massive potential for new up-and-coming Utah companies to learn from their peers within Utah and kind of learn what works. We’d be delighted to engage with more Utah companies,” Brody said.

Brody said that he’s “never seen any place like Utah” when it comes to the ambition needed to build world-leading companies.

“I think to do that, you need to kind of scale your operations outside of Utah as well and there is no better place to do that than Ireland when you look towards Europe,” Brody said.


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