Written by: Katherine Fitzpatrick, Director of International Relations
Last month, Cork Chamber participated in a series of events and activities in the US, from San Francisco and Florida, to New York, Washington and Chicago.
The activities included representation in a combination of twinned city meetings with the Lord Mayor and Cork City Council executives, as well as regional promotion and tourism promotion activities on the East Coast, in partnership with Cork County Council and Visit Cork. This international activity by Cork Chamber is central to the Connecting Cork project.
During the month of March, there is a huge global awareness of Ireland, coinciding with the many St Patrick’s Day festivals and events organised by our international diaspora groups, and bolstered by campaigns such as Tourism Ireland’s global greening initiative.
On the East Coast
Cork Chamber represented the business community at the White House reception, as well as meeting with Consul General Ciaran Madden in New York and promoting Cork for tourism at the Chicago St Patrick’s Day parade. We also visited the New Jersey area, meeting with representatives of Choose New Jersey, Princeton University and Audible, in advance of the return visit of Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, to Cork this summer.
In our Twinned City
In our twinned city of San Francisco, the new Mayor, London Breed, the city’s first female African American mayor was a very apt Grand Marshal for the St Patrick’s Day parade, which was themed “Women Breaking Barriers”. At the flag raising ceremony on March 8th, the Mayor also declared March “Irish American Heritage and Friendship Month” in San Francisco.
Over to Florida
The Cork delegation was welcomed warmly by the Cork and Irish community in Fort Pierce, Florida, where Ciaran Edwards and Marian O’Leary of ‘Fort-to-Fort’ put together a programme of Irish events and activities, all supported by the Mayor of Fort Pierce, Linda Hudson.
Welcome to Miami
The Mayor of Miami and Lord Mayor Mick Finn signed a friendship agreement, committing the two cities to working more closely together. Given that the Port of Miami is twinned with the Port of Cork, and Miami-Dade County is twinned with Cork County, the city collaboration is a natural next step. Executives from the Resilience team in Miami City shared their expertise in flood protection and storm defence schemes with the Cork delegation.
What is the value of these visits?
1. Awareness of Cork
First and foremost, Cork Chamber has an important role to play in promoting Cork abroad. We can mistakenly assume that people outside Ireland have heard of Cork, however this is not the case.
2. Connecting Cork
Our international project, Connecting Cork, has focused on diaspora engagement and the promotion of Cork as a location for business and investment over the last 3 years. This initiative has been supported by industry partners, who recognise that unless people have heard of Cork, they can’t choose to invest here, start a business or move here for work.
3. Creating Positive Perceptions of Cork and Ireland
The Chamber recently partnered with Publitics PR and Lenox Consulting on a survey carried out in the US, which asked 1000 respondents about their perceptions of Ireland, and explored their knowledge of Cork in particular. Among those surveyed, 87% reported they have a ‘very positive’ or ‘positive’ opinion of Ireland. Likewise, 80% believe the U.S. and Ireland have a positive relationship and 91% believe it is important or very important for the U.S. to maintain that relationship.
4. Promoting all Aspects of Cork Life
While 70% of respondents said they would at least consider relocating to Ireland to live and work, nearly 60% knew nothing about the music and theatre events and festivals in Cork, and in fact 45% admitted they had never heard of Cork! These results demonstrate that while the US market is well disposed towards Ireland, Cork still has a lot of work to do in educating people about our region, and we must seize these opportunities to fly the red and white flag on the international stage.