TAMPA— It has been only eight months since city and business leaders embarked on an initial trade mission to South Dublin. Since then at least three Irish companies have made exploratory trips to Tampa to scout the market and meet with local business leaders.
This week, the business relationship between the two is being further cemented with a return visit from the Irish city.
A trade delegation of 14 business and political leaders, including South Dublin Mayor Sarah Holland, arrived Monday evening in Tampa for a tour of the city that will last through Thursday. It will include meetings with business, political and tourism leaders, tours of higher education campuses and a meeting with Strategic Property Partners, the firm spearheaded by Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik.
"This is a great reality that South Dublin saw the connection and wanted to come here as quickly as they did and learn about us," said Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "This is a fast-growing relationship, which we're very happy about."
No firm business contracts have arisen from the trade missions so far but among the firms checking out Tampa are Crowe Howarth, Chartered Accountancy and Business Advisory practice, Guinness Enterprise Center, an innovation hub, and Meditec, a medical technology firm.
"That's only in a matter of months so you can see the level of energy and momentum that is already there," said Shane Stephens, Consul General of Ireland.
Recent Tampa Bay trade missions have focused on Central and South America. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who often touts his Irish roots, said the Irish capital could serve as an important gateway into the European marketplace for Tampa firms.
As well as forging ties with local firms here, the South Dublin mission will be touting the advantages of doing business in Ireland.
Low corporate tax rates helped Ireland attract billions of dollars of foreign investment and became a magnet for tech companies that relocated there in the hundreds during two decades of growth prior to 2007.
It went into recession after the collapse of property values that year but its economy has recovered, according to a report by the European Commission.
"Ireland is clearly and explicitly one of the very best destinations for any American company that wants to reach the 500 million consumers in the European Union," Stephens said.
Future trade missions for Tampa leaders could include another visit to Ireland to try and add Irish airline Aer Lingus to the airlines that fly from Tampa International Airport, Buckhorn said. There could also be trips to Japan and China in the next 12 months.
"I want Tampa to plant its flag across the globe and not just be restricted to Central and South America because we speak Spanish," Buckhorn said. "We can do better than that."
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times