Belfast Telegraph

Opportunity knocks for Irish trade links with US

By Brian Conlon

In 2009 US exports to Ireland were valued at $10.41bn, with over $40bn of trade in the other direction, proof, if any were needed, that our relationship with the US continues to be of critical importance for trade and enterprise. There are over 40 million people in the US who claim Irish ancestry and it is unsurprising to find many have risen to the top of powerhouses within the American economy.

The St Patrick's Day visit to the US was a whistle-stop tour of receptions and events in Washington DC and New York. It was inspiring to meet President Barack Obama, a man who continues to lift the spirits of a nation during difficult economic times and embraces wholeheartedly the notion of change.

At the Ireland Day event at the New York Stock Exchange there was a captive audience where we explained how Irish firms have the ability and talent to be strong partners and service providers in some of the world's most complex sectors.

At the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Ireland Fund, a combination of Ireland's political representatives and commercial leaders were there to spell out that this island is open for business.

At First Derivatives, our focus on the North American market has never been greater. In recent years the company has made important acquisitions in the North American market.

The US economy is a global weathervane and as the home of the world's largest financial markets a company like First Derivatives must perform there if we are to truly scale up and increase market share in other major financial centres.

Our trajectory is clearly aimed, with rapid expansion in the last five years seeing staffing levels increase from just under 100 to over 600 and we recently announced a further 359 jobs over the next three years, meaning by 2014 we will employ in the region of 900 people.

The Industrial Development Agency and Invest NI are performing well in the US market in promoting Ireland as business friendly, with excellent infrastructure and human resources.

The networks are out there. The challenge for each company is to tap into these and reap the commercial benefits of these business and cultural relationships. Be it on a national scale of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce (US) or state or city level, as Irish businesses we must put our strategic advantage to work.

Yes the doors are open a little wider around St Patrick's Day, but they're ajar the other 364 as well, we just need to knock on them.