By Brian Boyd
Standard-Times Staff Writer
An Irish delegation visited two of the region’s best-known manufacturers Tuesday, as they looked for ways to improve economic opportunities back home.
Representatives from Derry, Northern Ireland, and Buncrana, County Donegal, in the Irish Republic were on the second full day of their visit to New Bedford and the area.
The theme was economic development Tuesday, and the group toured the Joseph Abboud apparel factory in New Bedford and a Titleist packaging plant in Fairhaven. Officials from the two communities were interested in learning about this area’s industries, while also promoting their home as a place to do business.
Derry Mayor Drew Thompson said at the end of the economic tour that he would like to create a working partnership between Derry and New Bedford.
“We can learn from each other and discuss issues that are relevant to each other,” Mayor Thompson said.
Like New Bedford, Derry is a city that once enjoyed a thriving textile industry. Thousands once worked in shirt manufacturing, but most of those jobs have disappeared, Derry officials said.
At Abboud, Pat Ramsey, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, asked Anthony R. Sapienza, the company’s president, how they managed to keep a factory in New Bedford.
Mr. Sapienza said they make upscale suits at the factory, starting at $750, and since the business is fashion-driven, it can be more responsive to customers’ demands by making the suits in the country where they are sold.
“Anything under $600 can’t be made in the U.S.,” said Mr. Sapienza, who is president of the New Bedford Economic Development Council’s board of directors.
Mr. Ramsey asked him to consider Derry if Abboud wants to open a factory in Europe.
“We’re always on the lookout for any investment,” Mr. Ramsey said later.
He added he also is interested in cultural exchanges between New Bedford and Derry.
At Titleist, Peter McLaughlin, deputy mayor of Buncrana, suggested that the golf supplies manufacturer sponsor a cross-border golf tournament for the Derry-Buncrana area, as a way to promote peace and reconciliation following Northern Ireland’s violent past.
“We are all neighbors, and we all work well together,” Mr. McLaughlin told Peter Broome, vice president for business development and partnerships at the Acushnet Co., which owns the Titleist brand.
During the visit, Mr. Broome mentioned Irish President Mary McAleese had ordered customized golf balls with the presidential seal, so she could give them out as souvenirs.
“Each mayor should have that as well,” he said, to the amusement of his guests.
Contact Brian Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 12, 2008
By Brian Boyd