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Beyond St. Patrick's Day: Massachusetts and Ireland Economic Ties

Posted by Devin Cole  March 13, 2012 04:55 PM

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St. Patrick's Day, not named after me.

This weekend, I was walking through Boston as the city began its annual preparation for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The signs that this city takes its famous Irish heritage seriously were everywhere: Store windows were filled with large green top hats, Leprechauns, pots of gold(I don’t think it was real gold), and other costume apparel to mark one of the most storied holidays in Boston.

As we prepare to celebrate the cultural bonds that link Massachusetts and Ireland, there is also a great opportunity to illustrate the vibrant economic ties that connect these two regions on St. Patrick’s Day and the other 364 days of the year. The strong Massachusetts-Ireland relationship drives bilateral trade and investment. And even during these challenging economic times both economies benefit.

Boston has long been a gateway to the American dream for Irish immigrants. These strong cultural traditions developed over centuries of immigration have led to a business community that welcomes Irish companies and encourages Massachusetts organizations to use Ireland as their gateway to the European market. There was no better display of this welcome then the support that Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Kenny received in his recent visit to Boston.

In addition to the business community, Massachusetts institutions of higher education are deeply involved in building these important relationships. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell and the Boston College Irish Institute routinely work with trade missions of Irish business and government leaders seeking to create more opportunities for commerce with Massachusetts.

For decades, Massachusetts companies have made Ireland their European hubs. EMC, Covidien, and Boston Scientific are among the many companies that have found success by expanding in Ireland. The highly educated population, common language and culture as well as the relatively quick direct flights on Aer Lingus make Ireland an ideal fit for companies expanding into Europe and the global market. Equally important, both Ireland and Northern Ireland have established economic development offices here in Boston. Invest Northern Ireland, and Ireland Development Authority work to assist Massachusetts companies looking to expand into the Europe. The Irish see this pipeline as so critical to their economic recovery that they’ve announced a new initiative to reward Irish ex-patriots who create jobs in Ireland.

Massachusetts’ commitment to technology leadership has prompted top Irish and Northern Irish companies to choose Massachusetts over other US states. What is not as well-known is the strong pipeline of Irish companies opening US locations and creating jobs here in Massachusetts. According to Enterprise Ireland, Irish companies currently employ 6,000 Massachusetts residents.

Three examples of recent expansions are:

  • TotalMobile, a leading mobile applications developer headquartered in Belfast recently announced an expansion in Westborough.
  • Shimmer, an information technology company headquartered in Dublin, established a Boston office.
  • The most recent expansion of Netwatch, an advanced protection technologies company headquartered in Carlow. Netwatch US is currently located in Medford.

These leading companies are making strategic investments in their North American expansion, and are choosing Massachusetts as their launch pad.

The Massachusetts-Ireland economic relationship spans the governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland( as part of the United Kingdom). Northern Ireland and its leaders are also committed to developing trade relationships with Boston and all of Massachusetts. A prime example is the Northern Ireland Massachusetts Collaborative led by Senate President Therese Murray and Invest Northern Ireland. This collaboration has led to tech transfer opportunities and Northern Irish companies visiting Massachusetts to build relationships and consider opening satellite locations in the Commonwealth.

The Boston Irish Business Association (BIBA) has been fortunate to work closely with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Patrick/Murray Administration, Senate President Murray as well as the Irish Consul General, Michael Lonergan, and his team on a daily basis to provide companies with the assistance they need to expand their businesses in both Massachusetts and Ireland.

In addition to the Boston Irish Business Association, there are a number of government agencies and organizations that can help your company do business in Massachusetts and Ireland. These include:

As we look forward to the week ahead I hope you celebrate with Wild Rover or Tessie playing in the background and take advantage of all that Boston and Massachusetts has to offer during the St. Patrick’s Day week. And On March 18th , I encourage you to take advantage of all of the economic opportunities that exist between Ireland and “next parish over from Galway Bay”.

Patrick Bench is the President of the Boston Irish Business Association. During the day Bench is a vice president of public affairs at Rasky Baerlein Stategic Communications. In this role he provides public affairs and lobbying counsel to clients in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and across the country and internationally

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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