(Pictured from left to right: Public Affairs Director for Shire in Northern Europe Joe Brice, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and General Manager for Shire in Ireland Alan Walshe.)
Governor and First Lady Deal traveled to Dublin, Ireland last week on an economic development mission. Key representatives from Georgia’s business community also traveled to Ireland, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Hala Moddelmog, President “Bud” Peterson of Georgia Tech, Mayor Nancy Denson of Athens-Clarke County and Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr. The mission served as an opportunity to reinforce existing business relationships, meet with companies considering expanding into the state and promote Georgia as an investment, trade and tourism destination.
The state of Georgia views Ireland as an important trading partner and has had continuous representation covering Ireland since 2002. Atlanta is home to Ireland’s Southeastern U.S. Consulate General as well as the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of Ireland, an Irish government agency responsible for securing new investment from overseas for manufacturing and internationally traded services. Close business ties between the state and Ireland have led to a significant impact on Georgia’s economy. In 2015, Georgia exported $146 million worth of goods and services to Ireland and imported $776 million. At least 20 Georgia companies operate in Ireland and more than 120 Irish companies have facilities in Georgia employing approximately 9,500 Georgians.
During the trip, Governor Deal met with Irish companies such as Oldcastle, Shire and Voxpro, all of whom contribute tremendously to economic growth in Georgia. The single largest Irish employer in the U.S., Oldcastle’s North American headquarters is located Dunwoody, GA and the company operates a total of 39 facilities in Georgia. Shire, a leading global biotechnology company, recently acquired the new bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing facility east of Atlanta as well as plasma-collection centers throughout Georgia, leading to the creation of more than 1,500 Georgia jobs and total investment exceeding $1 billion. The most recent Irish project in Georgia was initiated by Voxpro, an innovative customer experience and tech support provider. The company’s 2016 announcement to invest $4 million in a new Center of Excellence in Athens-Clarke County will create more than 500 jobs.
Additional events included a “Georgia on my Mind” reception for Irish tour operators, travel agents and travel media to generate interest in Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. as a tourist destination. In 2015 there were 12,400 visitors to Georgia from Ireland, and Irish visitation is projected to increase through 2020. The First Lady also met with the Irish Ministry for Children and Youth Affairs and visited an early educational intervention program modeled after similar programs established in the U.S.
The delegation participated in Saturday’s festivities surrounding Georgia Tech’s participation in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic. Governor Deal joined Georgia Tech President Dr. Bud Peterson on the field to present Georgia Tech’s football team with the Keough-Naughton Trophy in celebration of their victory over Boston College. Nearly 10,000 Georgians traveled to Dublin over the weekend to attend the game.