Savannah and Wexford brought together again
'The most Irish city in the American South' is how Savannah was introduced at a meeting between Wexford and Savannah representatives at the National Opera House last week.
'Wexford owns Savannah in a unique way and no other Southern city can claim Irishness like Savannah,' said Howard Keely of Georgia State University. 'And Savannah's Irishness is big-time Wexford.'
The meeting, which focused on boosting tourist numbers in both places, was the first in a weeklong schedule of events between a delegation of business leaders from Savannah Georgia and various Wexford groups. Mayor of Savannah Eddie DeLoach was officially welcomed to the county on Tuesday, when a Civic Reception at the Irish National Heritage Park was held in his honour.
'We held the reception in a crannog and they were very impressed with that,' said Mayor of Wexford Cllr Frank Staples. 'Wexford people are all about their history and it was lovely to be able to show them some of it.'
The visitors also made trips to Dunbrody Famine Ship, Loftus Hall, Kilmore, Monart and many other key tourist locations across the county. However, though they enjoyed soaking in the sights throughout their stay, the visits were all in the name of business.
'Their visit to Wexford was all about forging business links between Wexford and Savannah, particularly in relation to tourism,' explained Mayor Staples. 'In about five or ten years time, Wexford will be a better place to live and work and making links like this will help that to happen.'
Mayor DeLoach was forced to make an early return to Savannah on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew threatened to hit the town. He had originally been due to stay in Wexford until Thursday before heading to Dublin for appointments. Despite his departure, the remainder of the the Savannah delegation, which included representatives of Visit Savannah, Savannah Economic Development Authority and various other groups, stayed on for several more days.
The mission was the direct result of a Council-led visit earlier this year when a delegation of senior staff at Wexford County Council under the leadership of Vice-Chairman Councillor Kathleen Codd Nolan travelled to the US to establish business links between Wexford and the State of Georgia and its key industrial centre of Savannah. The delegation was assisted in their efforts by Minister Paul Kehoe who joined the delegation.
Cllr Paddy Kavanagh, Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council described the delegation as 'a welcome opportunity to build relationships and explore and expand the many business opportunities that exist between Wexford and Savannah.'
The visiting delegation included Mayor of the City of Savannah Eddie DeLoach, Chairman of the Savannah Economic Development Authority(SEDA) Steve Green, Vice President of Bonitz of Georgia Inc and SEDA Board member John Coleman, President of Visit Savannah Joe Marinelli, Director for the UK and Ireland of Visit Savannah Jo Piani, President and CEO of Hilton Head Island / Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Bill Miles, Vice President and CEO of Savannah Economic Development Authority and World Trade Center Savannah Brynn Grant and Director of the Center of Irish Research and Teaching at Georgia Southern University Howard Keeley.
The Savannah visitors also went to Enniscorthy, where they met several of the local councillors and key members of the tourism sector in Enniscorthy Castle.