By Stephen McKinley
Euro day is rapidly approaching, and at the European Central Bank’s Euro changeover conference in Dublin last week, Bank President Wim Duisenberg offered a review of progress toward the changeover.
Calling it "an unprecedented logistical challenge," Duisenberg reviewed progress so far, and said that nearly 80 percent of the required 14 billion bank notes and 50 billion coins were already in central bank vaults.
Sitting side by side with Irish Minister of Finance Charlie McCreevy, Duisenberg glossed over their February spat over McCreevy’s budget, which Duisneberg had said was dangerously inflationary.
Irish Central Bank governor Maurice O’Connell said Ireland was meeting its production target of one billion coins and 200 million notes.
He also stressed the Bank was encouraging the public to hunt out any coins they had. "On average, every house has about £24 in idle coins. We would welcome the release of these coins sooner rather than later."
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The new euro notes and coins will be released from as early as Sept. 1 to Irish banks. They will be able to pass these on to retailers.
But it will be Dec. 17 before the public will get £5 "starter kits" of euro coins. Notes will appear last, on Jan. 1.
Duisenberg said he didn’t think the public would have trouble adjusting to the new money. People will think of "the euro as our money," at the start of the year.
"It is already our money," he said. "When you pay in cash you are already paying euro, but you are still obliged to pay in the current money. This psychological drawback will disappear on Jan. 1," he said.
Irish people are shopping online in ever-greater numbers. According to Amárach Consulting, nearly 150,000 adults in Ireland have purchased something online.
Surveying 1,000 Irish adults earlier this year, Amárach also found that 63 percent of people had been "very satisified" with their purchase.
Amárach reports that more e-shoppers are buying from Irish sites as well. Most Internet users are hearing about new shopping sites through word-of-mouth. Only 1 percent said they’d found their sites through regular surfing and browsing.
Baltimore has reason to celebrate — the internet security service has sold its systems to six European banks. The banks will use its systems to protect both online banking services and internal communications.
Baltimore shares had fallen sharply recently after two profit warnings. Earlier this year, the company warned that first-quarter profits would be below expectations because customers were delaying buying its software amid the uncertainty over the U.S. economy.
"These contracts are a sign that the sky has not fallen in yet," Fran Rooney, chief executive, said on Wednesday. "Financial institutions are starting to make spending decisions that three or four months ago maybe they were deferring. This is really an endorsement of our strategy. [But] I don’t think we can say that all the problems are over."
The contracts extend the reach of Baltimore in the financial services sector, where it has just over 100 customers.
New jobs in Galway
A Colorado company has created 185 jobs in Galway. Star Guide, a Denver-based manufacturer of medical devices, will open a manufacturing and research center in Oranmore, Co. Galway.
Since its founding in 1967, Star Guide has supplied more than 60 countries. It produces precision wire products for many of the world’s largest device manufacturers.
East outlook bright
While some economists have speculated that Ireland will lose business from the U.S. to areas with cheaper labor, like Eastern Europe, an Enterprise Ireland seminar recently painted a different picture.
"Central and Eastern Europe is a region of great opportunity for companies in a wide variety of sectors and for a wide variety of reasons," said Enterprise Ireland’s NW regional director, Barry Egan.
The seminar, held recently in Sligo, was organized as part of Enterprise Ireland’s eur:opp2003 initiative, which is aimed at assisting more Irish firms to avail of the considerable opportunities presented by markets across continental Europe.
"Already some 145 Irish companies are successfully doing business there," Egan told the Clare Champion.
"The region has a combined population of over 400 million, is experiencing rapid growth in the commercial sector, fueled by increasing consumer purchasing power, has a base of well-educated consumers and employees, relatively low cost levels, easy access to and from Western Europe, and several countries in the region are likely to be members of the EU from 2004."
Tyrone Crystal improves
Dungannon got a boost last week when its world-famous Tyrone Crystal factory received a further £500,000 investment from Tipperary Crystal.
The group bought Tyrone Crystal 10 months ago for £5 million has opened a new visitor’s center at the factory.
Tipperary Crystal’s Niall Wall said that the latest funding reflected the group’s confidence in Tyrone Crystal.
Tyrone Crystal, a major employer in Dungannon, saw its business flagging in the mid-1990s. A management buyout team helped turn its fortunes around in more recent years, but Tipperary’s acquisition has provided a new investment stream and a new focus for the company, which today employs more than 100 people.