The Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the United States Inc. opened a new chapter in Savannah last Friday, reflecting Georgia’s increasing interest in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. The state’s relationship with Ireland will be further advanced in October when Atlanta hosts an historic joint delegation from the Dublin and Northern Ireland chambers of commerce, the first ever to be organized.

According to James Gaffey, chairman of the ICCUSA’s Southeast chapter, “Gov. [Sonny] Perdue is bending over backwards to assist us” in developing business relations between the U.S. and Ireland.

Because of low taxes and easy access to the whole continent, “Ireland is considered the doorway to Europe,” Mr. Gaffey told GlobalAtlanta. “Ireland is a revenue stream that is sitting there ready to be tapped.”

Although there are over 1,200 international companies based in Ireland and 540 American companies, very few are from the Southeast, Mr. Gaffey said. Commerce between the U.S. and Ireland typically occurs in the Northeast where large Irish-American populations live.

“The ICCUSA’s role is to connect Irish business with the Southeast and we’re working particularly with the state of Georgia,” he said, noting the state has a stronger Irish heritage than is commonly known.

Savannah was chosen as a new location for an ICCUSA chapter, he said, because of its strong cultural ties to Ireland. The city annually hosts the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. In addition, “If business builds in the Southeast, they’ll have to bring business through that port,” he said.

The Irish identify with Atlanta, Mr. Gaffey said, because “It, too, survived a civil war and produced a civil rights movement. They identify with Atlanta because, as Gov. Perdue said, ‘Georgia and Ireland are a lot alike.’ “

“Now Ireland is doing so well, they want to come here. For the first time ever they’re coming to Atlanta. For the first time ever they’re coming together,” Mr. Gaffey said.

As current chair of the European Union, Ireland recently has enjoyed increased visibility in Georgia. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led the EU delegation to the recent G-8 Summit on Sea Island, just weeks after Mr. Gaffey, in recognition of Ireland’s leadership role in the EU, presided over Europe Day in Atlanta.

For more information, contact Mr. Gaffey at 770-621-2503 or