Atlanta Key to Ireland’s Southeast Outreach
As an economic hub for the Southeast, Atlanta represents a key area for the Irish government’s efforts to boost trade and investment ties with the region, a legislative delegation told local business leaders June 25.
Led by Pat Breen, an Irish parliament member who chairs its Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, the three-member delegation was received by a gathering of more than 50 people at the Capital City Club downtown, sponsored by the Irish Chamber of Atlanta.
Mr. Breen commended efforts by the local Irish chamber and Irish Consul General Paul Gleeson for their efforts in promoting trade, tourism and economic development between Ireland and the Southeast.
“A huge proportion of the growth in the U.S. over the [next] 20 years is, I believe, going to come in from states like Georgia, North Carolina and Florida … and it’s for this reason we set up our consulate general’s office here in Atlanta,” Mr. Breen said.
Opened in 2010, the Irish consulate in Atlanta was the first to open in America in more than 80 years. The Atlanta consulate has also hosted two Irish ministerial visits in recent years, further showing the importance of the city, he added.
But since the economic downturn, which led to drastic drops in Ireland’s gross domestic product in 2009-10 and soaring unemployment over 14 percent in recent years, Ireland has sought additional ways to foster economic development.
One method is ConnectIreland, a government initiative that makes basically anyone a consultant for Ireland’s investment recruitment agency, IDA Ireland. If a person introduces a company that ends up investing in Ireland, he or she will receive a referral fee of up to €1,500 (about $1,871) for each job created by investment.
At the Atlanta event, ConnectIreland showed a video featuring endorsements from former President Clinton and actor Martin Sheen, among others, encouraging businesses to invest in Ireland.
Part of the delegation’s mission includes filing a report to the Irish government on the impact of programs like ConnectIreland as well as the efforts of Irish consulates in America connecting the country with new investment partners.
Mr. Breen said he hopes efforts like this will further strengthen the bonds between the Georgia and Ireland.
“For Ireland and Georgia, this is our time. There is an energy and an excitement and a realism about the potential to grow our two-way relationship in trade, investment and tourism over the coming months and years,” he said.
Houston was the delegation’s next scheduled stop, followed by San Jose, Calif., Mr. Breen said.
For more information on the Irish Chamber of Atlanta, see http://www.irishchamberofatlanta.com.
To sign up for ConnectIreland, visit www.connectireland.com.
This story first appeared on GlobalAtlanta.com June 26.