By Ian Ross
Sault Ste. Marie’s ongoing transatlantic relationship with the Republic of Ireland continues this spring.
One of the largest trade missions yet staged between the Sault and the Newry-Dundalk area of Ireland gets underway on the Emerald Isle, May 24-31.
It is the third such mission between the two communities, the last one being the Trade Bridge 2001 event hosted in the Sault last June.
“It was not a huge event, but it was successful,” says Rob Derbyshire, event co-ordinator with the city’s Enterprise Centre. The event attracted dozens of Canadian and U.S. small-and medium-sized companies that bent the ears of the small Irish business delegation in hope of establishing joint venture and technology tranfer opportunities.
What began in the fall of 2000 as a purely “get-your-feet-wet” exploratory trip to Ireland is blossoming not just across business lines, but through sport, educational and cultural exchanges as well, says Derbyshire
“This one is even bigger because it’s not only a business-to-business event, but it encompasses whole aspects of cross-cultural developments,” including a student exchange program with Algoma University College to stage an economic forum with the Dundalk Institute of Technology, says Derbyshire
Some of the sectors the mission will be concentrating on include information technology and software, environment and recycling, health care, wood products and manufacturing - all areas which the rapidly growing Irish economy and its business community have an interest in.
As of early March, 20 Northern Ontario businesses had registered for the trip, says Derbyshire, including five businesses from North Bay and there was more interest from the Sault, Timmins, Sudbury and Wawa. The trade mission’s capacity is for about 40 people.
Derbyshire says if there was one regret from the Sault’s Trade Bridge event last summer it was that other northern communities either did not sign on, or had no knowledge of it.
“What we’re really focused on is promoting this is as a pan-northern event,” says Derbyshire, who was heading out in early March to spend three months in Ireland organizing the event as a liaison officer with the Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency to promote Canadian and Northern Ontario’s interests abroad.