August 2009: Jim O’ Hara, general manager, Intel ireland

Business Person of the Month | Wed 2 Sep | Author – Business & Finance
Jim O'Hara

Jim O’Hara, general manager Intel Ireland is this month’s recipient of Business Person of the Month.

Because

Jim O’Hara, the general manager of Intel in Ireland, has recently come out in strong support of the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Emphasising how important the treaty is to the future of Irish business, O’Hara personally committed both himself and Intel to the Yes campaign and regretted not doing so first time around.

With the company planning to spend “a few hundred thousand euro” on the Yes campaign, O’Hara is obviously passionate about the importance of the vote. He says, “Being centre-stage as part of Europe has benefited this country hugely in the past and will continue to benefit us in the future. It’s good for business, it’s good for growth, it’s good for prosperity.”

The important role that the business community plays was also stressed by O’Hara, saying, “I think it’s such a huge issue for this country and because it’s such a huge issue, it’s very important that business people like me speak out and get the message across to people, for their simple consideration.”

Intel, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in Ireland in October this year, has not been immune to the affects of the recession as it has recently announced 300 compulsory redundancies at its Leixlip plant. Intel is one of Ireland’s largest private-sector employers and technology manufacturers but these job cuts signal a decline in demand for some of its technologies.

Irish base

Intel set up its Leixlip operation in October 1989 and it has since grown to be a major manufacturing base for the firm in Europe. It employs over 4,000 people and the company has invested up to $7bn in specialised machinery for the plant. O’Hara left his post at computer firm Digital, where he ran the business outside Europe and the US, to establish the Leixlip base of operations and has been there ever since.

O’Hara has been a major advocate of Ireland as a place to do business and emphasises its unique characteristics that make it lucrative to do so. According to O’Hara, Intel and other multinationals come to Ireland because of a “low corporate tax rate, well-educated workforce, competitive cost-structures and the fact that Ireland was a part of the EU and a gateway into the EU. So most multinationals made those choices in the full belief that an investment in Ireland was an investment in Europe.”

European woes

Despite O’Hara’s commitment to the importance of Europe, relations with the European Commission have not been so positive, with Intel receiving a record €1.06bn fine for allegedly keeping rivals out of the market through illegal means.

Allegations that Intel  paid retailers not to stock computers with rival chips have been vehemently denied by both Intel and O’Hara, and they plan to continue to fight against the landmark judgement.

Background

O’Hara grew up in Cabra, North Dublin and on leaving school, went straight into employment with Brunswick at its Cabra operation. In 1973, he moved on to US computer firm Digital rising through the ranks to run its operations outside the US and Europe.

While this post involved moving all over the world, setting up manufacturing plants in Asia and Australia, the offer to move back to Ireland came from Intel in 1989 and was impossible to refuse.

Merc logoBusiness & Finance, Business Person of the Month

Business & Finance, in association with MERC Partners, has been awarding excellence in business through the ‘Business Person of the Month’ award over the last number of years. These awards seek to recognise noteworthy achievements in business leadership, and particularly those that make a telling contribution to the wider business community in Ireland.