Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen was in New York Monday and Tuesday to hold a series of high profile business meetings and to launch Ireland’s $700 million Innovation Fund.
On Monday Cowen had an early morning breakfast with business leaders at the New York Stock Exchange. His message was clear -- Ireland is on its way up.
He spoke about the Irish government’s $700 million fund that would help create 120,000 new jobs for Ireland in the next 10 years. The fund will be seeded by the Irish government and U.S. venture capitalists.
“Venture capital is an essential ingredient for supporting entrepreneurs and ensuring businesses can scale and create jobs. Lack of finance consistently emerges as a key impediment for innovative firms,” said Cowen.
Cowen told a breakfast audience of some two dozen business people that over the next five years, the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) and Enterprise Ireland are to provide $350 million for the fund, which is intended to lure venture capital to Ireland. Venture capitalists are to provide the other $350 million.
"Many successful companies that are now household names, like Google and Facebook, relied on venture financing to achieve the scale necessary to become multinational companies and provide large numbers of jobs,” he said adding that it’s the government’s job now to “provide the right environment for such companies to develop in Ireland.”
He continued, "In launching Innovation Fund Ireland, we are presenting a positive message of confidence. The foundations for economic growth are not destroyed, but are firmly in place, ready to be built on. The recovery is underway.
"Not only have we come through the recession, recording the fastest rate of GDP growth in the EU, we will deliver on the step-change needed to secure sustainable economic growth through a significant increase in the level of company start-ups and job creation in innovative, export-focused sectors," said Cowen.
Cowen later told Irish journalists that the government has been discussing the fund with potential investors for up to a year and that his launch was “well received” by people from the stock exchange, “people who are involved with Irish America and who are involved in business”.
After his morning meetings Cowen traveled to Gaelic Park in the Bronx where he launched the Cul 4 Kids football and hurling summer camp.
Cowen met with officials from the New York GAA and spent time with some of the 164 children participating in the weeklong camp.
On Monday evening, after a series of closed-door meetings in the afternoon with various companies, Cowen was the keynote speaker at the Irish Voice Women of Influence Awards held at the Irish Consulate.
In his address to over 200 people, mostly Irish and Irish American women, Cowen made reference to the 310,000 women who came to the U.S. during the Famine era and how these women paved the way for this current generation “of wonderful Irish American women.”
“Although we know very little about the other 310,000 women who came into the port of New York between 1882 and 1908 and the countless others who arrived in ports up and down the East Coast, we do know these women didn’t come with much money in their pockets. They just came with a big heart,” he said.
Cowen dedicated Monday night’s awards to the “heroic women who helped build the Irish America that we know today.”
He said, “I know that all of you being honored here tonight have a particular appreciation of the Irish women who came before you. You are the fulfillment of their dreams and hard work. They are the bedrock of our past and your future.”
Cowen said the U.S. has benefited greatly from the new generation of Irish women, women who have shown “a tremendous leadership role in America in the labor movement, politics, in arts and cultural activities, in the charity sector, and now America is a much different place because of them.”
On Tuesday Cowen held a series of high-level meetings with executives from Wall Street and had some time with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
His busy schedule also included meetings with Industrial Development Agency Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland. He also visited the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City.
On Tuesday evening the Taoiseach attended a reception in his honor at the Irish Consulate and after which he departed for Atlanta, Georgia.
On Wednesday morning Cowen was due to launch a new Irish Consulate in Atlanta, before departing for Dublin.