With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, Georgians have yet another reason to celebrate their relationship with Ireland. 

Kerry Group is investing $125 million to expand a Rome, Ga., factory that will create 100 new jobs when completed early next year. Some 400 people will be employed during construction, which is set to begin immediately. 

Gov. Brian Kemp sounded a familiar refrain in an announcement, praising the company for “doubling down” on the state and highlighting Georgia’s focus on making sure existing companies are equipped to grow here. 

Rome officials noted that the majority of their new jobs are coming from expansions rather than greenfield investments. 

Kerry has 25,000 employees around the world but counts North America as its largest market, Gerry Behan, CEO of Kerry Taste & Nutrition in the region, said in a news release. 

“This new Georgia facility will be one of the most advanced and modern food manufacturing facilities in the world to support our customers as they produce tasty and nutritious food products, which will be consumed all across the U.S. and Canada,” Mr. Behan said in a statement. Kerry Group has more than 150 plants globally and 1,000-plus food scientists on staff. 

The investment comes on the heels of the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which clarifies trade policy within the North American trade bloc and expands access for U.S. food products in Canada and Mexico. Canada, the final country yet to ratify the deal, is expected to do so this summer if not sooner. 

Kerry Group is not affiliated with Kerrygold butter, the famous Irish brand. Instead, both get their name from County Kerry on the southwestern coast of Ireland. 

Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, thanked Irish Consul General Shane Stephens for his assistance on the deal. Mr. Stephens is the longest-serving member of the Georgia consular corps, having been here since 2015. His term will likely end this year; in two Global Atlanta Consular Conversations he has focused on the importance of two-way trade and helping Irish firms expand in the South. The department counts 95 Irish firms with 123 facilities in the state, employing 6,800 people. 

Enterprise Ireland announced in a March 11 news release new numbers putting the stock of Irish investment in the U.S. at $235.7 billion, with Irish-owned firms employing 110,000 people. That number is expected to grow as Ireland diversifies its international investment base in the wake of Brexit. 

The outbound investment agency is hosting a roundtable in Washington Wednesday with Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall and U.S. envoy to Ireland, Edward Crawford, exploring this trend, featuring executives from Kerry Group as well as Kingspan, a building materials firm with a Georgia presence. Aerogen, Icon and NovaLeah, other Irish companies, will also be featured on the panel.    

The Kerry Group announcement comes as Georgia prepares to host St. Patrick’s Day events this week; so far, parades in Atlanta and Savannah are still on despite coronavirus concerns and cancellations in places like Boston and even in Ireland. 

The Irish Chamber of Atlanta on Friday morning will move ahead in hosting its 18th annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, this year featuring Paul Kehoe, minister with responsibility for defense in the office of the Taoseach, or prime minister. Learn more or sign up for single tickets here or a table for eight here

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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