In May 2023, World Trade Center Savannah (WTCSav) led a delegation focused on economic development, education, tourism and civic engagement to Ireland in an ongoing mission to strengthen the TradeBridge initiative and further relations between Georgia and Ireland’s southeast regions. The delegation included representatives from WTCSav, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), the Pendleton Group, Georgia Southern University (GSU), Visit Savannah and Savannah’s civic offices including Mayor Van Johnson.
Upon arrival, delegates were able to enjoy the Wexford v. Westmeath Leinster senior hurling championship, serving as a great example of the region’s cultural activities and sports events. Hurling, similar to America lacrosse, is Ireland’s national sport in which two teams compete with wooden sticks called hurleys to hit a small ball called a sliotar into the competing team’s goal. Mayor Johnson and GSU President Dr. Kyle Marrero joined Liam Spratt on Southeast Radio to share their experience of spectating their first hurling game.
In Wexford, the delegates had the opportunity to see the GSU Learning Center, a resource for students studying abroad. They also toured the Adoration Convent, the site of future accommodations for GSU students while abroad. Afterward, the team enjoyed one of the region’s cultural focal points by touring the National Opera House, famous for the annual Wexford Festival Opera, which has attracted huge crowds since 1951.
Other members of the delegation toured the Stafford Bonded Maturation Site facility and met with representatives from Ireland’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Agency, Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Rosslare EuroPort to discuss economic development opportunities between Georgia and Ireland. All members of the delegation then attended a banquet dinner at Johnstown Castle, a neo-Gothic castle adorned with turrets and towers surrounded by gardens, parks, lakes and woodland walks open to the public for enjoyment.
Tuesday started with a tour of the Hatch Lab, providing the opportunity to look in on the Wexford City Council initiative that serves as a tech incubator, offering business and financial services. After the tour, a Regional Economic Forum offered discussions with Enterprise Ireland, South East Technological University and SEDA, and a networking event held at Sullivan’s Tap Room hosted companies from the Carlow, Kilkenny and Tipperary regions. These were essential opportunities for company representatives to meet delegates from Savannah and discuss possible crossover in business and trade.
On Wednesday, Visit Savannah took center stage as the president of the organization Joe Marinelli met with Marble City Travel to facilitate tourism relations. Meanwhile, the economic development team and the civic engagement team toured Kilkenny Castle before meeting with Pat Fitzpatrick, the Cathaoirleach (or chairman) of Kilkenny City Council, as well as several travel agents and representatives of Kilkenny’s tourism organizations.
Finally, the delegation departed Kilkenny to head to Dublin, where they had the opportunity to see The Mansion House, the head of Dublin’s city government since 1715 and the official residence of Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy. Afterwards, they traveled to Leinster House, the seat of Parliament, to meet with Minister Sean Fleming, Minister for Diaspora and International Development. Establishing relations with government officials is an important part of trade missions, ensuring diplomatic engagement and access to resources and information to help navigate regulatory frameworks.
The trip closed out with a meeting involving representatives from Future Proof Insights, a neuroscience and consumer market research company, and a meeting with the Chief Executive of the American Chamber of Commerce at Horizon Therapeutics, a leading biotech research and development company. These meetings underscored the importance of creating a favorable business environment with personal relationships, overcoming many potential barriers to trade that can arise between two culturally and geographically distant regions.
The trip was very successful in not only familiarizing the participants with Irish foreign relations, but also in covering all bases of international trade, including economic development discussions, diplomatic relations, civic engagement and tourism, allowing attendees to enjoy Ireland’s beautiful architecture and culture on top of their important work in international trade.