9 March 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth
This week the Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr. John Paul O’Shea will lead a business and tourism delegation on a three city programme of events which will include visits to Chicago, Detroit and New York. The visit follows on from last week’s visit to County Hall by a political and business delegation from Jiangsu province in China who have since expressed interest in deepening connections in the food, pharmaceutical and educational sectors.
In visiting the United States the Council is capitalising on the opportunity that the annual St. Patrick’s Day period offers to promote everything Irish and in particular everything Cork. The delegation will participate in a series of cultural and business events and meetings that will address food, tourism and IT opportunities for the Cork region. The visit is the continuation of the Council’s commitment to strengthening strategic relationships with key regions across the US. In the fifteen years since the initial Sister County agreement with Cook County was signed, the enhanced commercial and cultural links have paid enormous dividends for Cork. The creation of “The Cork Convention Bureau” in 2007 which was born out of ties made with the “Chicago Visitors and Convention Bureau have resulted in forty international ambassadors promoting Cork as an International location for conferences, congresses and meetings. Last year alone the Bureau generated €9m worth of new business for Cork, according to Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, TD, who also paid tribute to Cork County Council’s commitment to supporting the Irish governments Diaspora Strategy in the development of the County Diaspora Strategy which will assist in deepening worldwide links and provide business, tourism and cultural opportunities into the future.
Trade and political visits between Cork and Chicago to date have focused primarily on Tourism, IT and Biotechnology and the relationship has resulted in many Cork businesses being introduced to the US market including a Cork software development company who are now working with leading US companies Abbot Laboratories and Astellas Pharma. Indeed, as the result of a previous delegate mission, Park Magic availed of the opportunity to trial their pay parking solution in Chicago and have since experienced meteoric expansion. Additionally, “Documentum” a local Cork company have taken up free office space in the Illinois Institute of Technology, an opportunity that came about through connections made during previous St Patrick’s Day delegate missions.
Cork is already home to some of the world’s largest Biotechnology companies and is recognised internationally as an extremely attractive and efficient location to do business. Over €3 billion worth of capital investment in recent years has seen the sector bounce back from the patent cliff environment of a few short years ago, into a period of sustained growth. This impressive recovery was recently highlighted by the president of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBio), Mr. Warren Ribley when he spoke at a recent International Biotech Conference held in Cork. Mr. Ribley was invited to make his address to the conference by a delegation who visited Illinois from Cork in 2014.
“The success of the relationships forged in the last number of years through the work undertaken by previous St. Patrick’s Day business and tourism delegations is obvious” according to Cork County Mayor, Cllr. John Paul O’ Shea. I am “privileged to lead a delegation to the United States on behalf of the Council. Cork County Council has a long association with Chicago and in particular Cook County. This year’s visit is comprehensive in scope. We will meet with the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce , the Counsel General for Ireland, the president of Cook County, Illinois and the Mayor of Detroit. I will visit the Ford factory in Detroit and discuss opportunities to maximise Cork’s unique link with its founder. I will also address the Irish American fellowship and the Cork New York association. Tourism and our 1916 commemorations will also feature highly on the agenda”.
Commenting on the US visit Cork County Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey said that “this visit is part of an ongoing Cork County Council programme of maximising exposure for the Cork Region internationally through utilising the unique opportunity that presents at this time of the year to deepen business, cultural and tourism links for the county.
Conor Healy, CEO Cork Chamber of Commerce – who is participating on the Chicago leg of the visit – stated “the links between Cork and Chicago have grown significantly in recent years further to previous visits of this nature and have considerable scope for development from a trade, tourism and investment perspective. Of particular relevance on this occasion is the participation of the Cork delegation in an Agrifood focussed investment event with the Irish Consulate and Chicagoland Chamber which will highlight opportunities across this key sector of the Cork and US Mid-Western economies.”