High Time for Irish Businesses to Fly the Maple Leaf Flag

Irish Independent, 17th December 2023

David McCaffrey, Canada Country Manager, Enterprise Ireland

Canada can be a compelling springboard for Irish companies seeking to scale to North America.

More than 300 Irish companies are already exporting to Canada, with exports reaching an all-time high last year at €452m, growing by 25pc in the last three years.

Canada is now the ninth-largest market for non-food Irish exports. Not only that, but a recent report produced by economist Jim Power for the Ireland-Canada Business Association also forecast that Irish exports to Canada have the potential to double in five years.

Ireland Canada Trade

Last month, 21 Enterprise Ireland client companies discovered more about the extensive opportunities in Canada when they took part in a trade mission to Toronto and Vancouver. Those participating represented 11 counties and included companies such as Combilift, Aryza, Enterpryze, Moffett Automated Systems, Kent Stainless, Diona, Flex Manager, Fenergo, DAA International, Swoop and Vaultree.

Led by Trade Promotion Minister Dara Calleary and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the joint Enterprise Ireland and IDA trade mission focused on sectors such as fintech, Digital technologies, high-tech construction and material handling.

In construction, for example, there is vast untapped potential for Irish companies to supply the Canadian sector, especially as there is a large Irish diaspora across all levels. The Irish and Irish-Canadians are more than willing to open doors to the right Irish company at the right time. To support bridge-building, the trade mission also saw the launch of a Canada-Ireland Construction Network.

The minister and those involved made the most of the trade mission to promote Ireland’s position as a leading digital economy in Europe.

This activity included holding high-level round table meetings where client companies could discuss and share insights into innovation and market trends with senior decision-makers in Canadian partners and customers.

The trade mission also saw business networking events involving local chambers of commerce in Vancouver and Toronto. Both were attended by well over 100 people, despite the early hour – evidence of the keen interest in learning more about what innovative Irish companies can offer.

During the four-day trade mission, recent EY Entrepreneur of the Year winner Sam Moffett announced he had signed a multimillion-dollar deal between the Canadian company Ya Ya Foods and his automated material handling business Moffett Automated Systems. That deal means Moffett will set up a direct presence in Canada next year, joining the 25 Irish companies that have done the same in the past three years.

Overall, Irish companies employ 7,500 people across Canada.

It’s also worth noting that for the 900 Irish-owned companies already exporting to the US, Canada offers an excellent opportunity to further extend their North American operations. Enterprise Ireland is here to assist companies with that ambition.

Canada is the second-largest country in the world. It requires a thoughtful review of market entry costs and to think province by province in establishing distribution, operations, and identifying customers. Firms succeeding here ensure they have boots on the ground with a local presence and are mindful of the cultural nuance of doing business in Canada.