Written by: Rogers Weed, Director, Department of Commerce
Turned off my alarm on my first full day here in Ireland and promptly went back to sleep for an hour causing me to miss half of our delegation breakfast – jet lag is literally and figuratively a drag!
Fortunately, though, I got to breakfast just in time to hear Senator Katherine Zappone – Irish member of Parliament and Spokane native – wax eloquently on the state of things in this country and opportunities for future collaboration. In addition to being the only other place in the Northern Hemisphere besides Seattle that is cloudy/rainy and cool at this time of year, Ireland boasts substantial aerospace and software activity.
While the Governor went off to morning meetings with Irish officials, the bulk of our delegation traveled by bus to Belfast to meet with Bombardier, tour their factory and talk about doing business with them. The Belfast plant began life as the Short Brothers company and had the first ever contract (with the Wright Brothers!) to build a commercial airplane back in the early part of the 20th century. Today this operation builds fuselages and a number of other parts for several Bombardier airplanes.
Procurement here directly spends over $500 million per year on goods and services and influences the roughly $5 billion of worldwide procurement that Bombardier Aerospace does each year. The message from Stephen Cowan (General Manager – Supply Chain/Aircraft Assembly) was “I don’t need to be convinced that Washington State is a good place to do business.” He was very complimentary of our suppliers, said he benchmarks himself against much of what goes on in our state and yet he said that he knows very few of the companies that operate in our state personally and “that is not right.” Needless to say, business cards were exchanged!
Following that, we toured their machining and assembly operations and then made our way around the airport to a brand new building built to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the launch of the Titanic, which was manufactured right here in Belfast. We had lunch, toured the museum (which is *very* well done) and then had a two hour networking event where each of our delegation members met with local Belfast companies around potential business opportunities. We finished with a group picture on an exact replica of the staircase in the ballroom aboard the Titanic.
From here, it’s on to Chester, England and a tour of the Airbus factory in Broughton, England tomorrow!