Why these major Utah businesses chose to expand to Ireland

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — It’s “the most Irish day of the year,” and the Irish government’s investment agency is highlighting major Utah companies that established ties to the island nation in recent years.

Qualtrics, doTerra, Ancestry.com and Zagg are among the Utah-based companies that have pursued business opportunities in Ireland as part of their international expansion in recent years.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in Utah,” Ivan Houlihan, IDA Ireland’s head of the West Coast U.S., said. “We have a lot of Utah companies with a presence in Ireland and we’re just keen to see that grow.”

What makes Ireland attractive to Utah business owners

In the last decade, many Utah-based companies have created international centers or built manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Houlihan from IDA Ireland — the Irish government’s investment and development agency — Ireland is attractive for several reasons, including its long-standing history of business with U.S. companies, its status as the only English-speaking member of the European Union and its reputation as a pro-business nation.

Ireland’s geographic placement also makes it a prime location to open international EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) headquarters. For example, Utah companies Qualtrics and Market Star established Irish EMEA headquarters in the past two years.

“What we typically see is that when an American company is looking to grow internationally, they want to put a presence into somewhere in Europe, Middle East, or Africa. And typically, Ireland is seen as a very strong location to locate your international headquarters,” Houlihan said.

The role of historical ties

Houlihan said the historical connection between the U.S. and Ireland can also play a role in what attracts local businesses to invest abroad.

“People are very proud of their Irish heritage, and it comes in all forms,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan said nearly 30 million U.S. citizens claim Irish heritage which makes for almost 10% of the U.S. population. He said those who claim Irish ancestry are spread throughout the country with a higher concentration on the coasts.

Utahns have an Irish connection through the building of railroads in the 1840s and 1850s, such as the transcontinental railroad, Houlihan said. He said people celebrate that heritage in many ways, from running a St. Patrick’s Day race to gravitating toward company expansion abroad.

“On this day, on the most Irish day of the year, we’d like to spread the message in Salt Lake City and in Utah that we’re keen to kind of work with more companies and partner with them for their success internationally,” Houlihan said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to ABC4 Utah.