Waterford Chamber President Michael O’Dwyer welcomed US Ambassador Kevin F O’Malley to Waterford Castle last Friday on what was the new Ambassador’s first official visit to Waterford.
Ambassador O’Malley was the guest speaker at the Waterford Chamber President’s Lunch which included Minister of State for the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey, Waterford City & County Council CEO Michael Walsh, WIT President Willie Donnelly and IDA Regional Director Anne-Marie Tierney Le Roux.
Mr O’Dwyer told the gathering: “It’s been a difficult week for our two communities with the tragedy at Berkeley which has been heartfelt not just across Ireland but around the world.
“Today was about strengthening our business ties with the US. We also now stand united in sadness. Ambassador can I thank you personally for all your hard work over the past few days and extend a very warm welcome to you and your wife Dena.”
Mr O’Dwyer referenced the positivity, determination and “renewed sense of hope that is evident in the business community at present”, making reference to the ground breaking ceremony held at West Pharma on Tuesday last.
“It is the time to plan for the future, to turn our back on the difficult times of recent years and strive for an even better Waterford,” he said.
“As Chamber President, I want my year in office to reflect just that – ‘Looking to the Future – as a time for growth and innovation’. Ambassador, we can assure you Waterford is open for business and can offer the very best in terms of skill, education and lifestyle.”
According to Ambassador O’Malley said: ” There is a long history of strong commercial, educational and cultural linkages between the US and Waterford. The Chamber’s vision of Waterford as a ‘Vibrant Gateway’ has wide-reaching benefits not only for the local economy and community, but for the region as a whole.”
Ambassador O’Malley mentioned how he had met the J1 visa students at his Phoenix Park residence and the embassy prior to their departure to the USA, adding that he had been personally affected by the Berkeley tragedy and that his office is offering as much help as it can.
Describing last Tuesday’s events as “a tremendous tragedy,” Ambassador O’Malley paid tribute to the efforts of Irish Consul Fintan Grant in San Francisco and how he and his colleagues had assisted the bereaved.
Appointed by President Obama, Ambassador O’Malley has been tasked with creating more links between both nations and to encourage further investment and trade.
The Ambassador noted US firms in Waterford such as Bausch + Lomb, Genzyme, Hasbro, Honeywell and Sun Life, plus the new arrivals West Pharma, who are creating 150 news jobs in their $150 million investment at Knockhouse.
Investment with the US is growing again and even during the difficult 2008-2012 period it grew more in those years than it had in the previous 50.
US investment in Ireland now totals a massive $400 billion, with two-way trade standing at $40 billion per annum.
Many countries are envious of Ireland’s US business connections and their many successes; as the Ambassador noted, there are shared prosperity, family and cultural connections.
The Irish culture is strong as part of America’s development and Ambassador O’Malley referenced Deiseman Thomas Francis Meagher, who served as Governor of Montana and was a founder of the Fighting 69th in the Union Army.
For his part, Ambassador O’Malley’s (who hails from the mid-west State of Missouri) grandparents Michael and Lis O’Malley came from Mayo and left ‘the old country’ for a better future. They had seven children.
The Ambassador wishes to foster more linkage with a special ‘Creative Minds’ programme covering music, culture, education and entrepreneurship and has encouraged Waterford Chamber to support this initiative and has promised to visit Waterford again.
US investment in Ireland is greater than what it invest in Brazil, China or South Africa and the Ambassador also praised how Ireland is recovering from its recession.
Waterford Institute of Technology was also praised for its US links with Sun Life; there are five WIT Fulbright scholars in the States currently; the Ambassador wishes to foster further academic links.
He hopes that Ireland and Waterford will continue to work together with the US to preserve and deepen the great historic relationship between both nations. At present there are 60 town twinnings between the US and Ireland, including Waterford and Rochester.
“Further twinnings and a strengthening of the link between this city and region, given its history and its prosperity, and the United States, could prove very positive,” Ambassador O’Malley told The Munster Express.