View from the Chair

NI Chamber signs MOU with North Carolina

26th Mar 2024

A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of leading NI Chamber’s delegation to the United States, where we took in a packed calendar of engagements across North Carolina and Washington D.C. As representatives of Northern Ireland’s business community, we were afforded a level of international access which would be the envy of most.

During our trip, there were many notable engagements but chief among them was a signing ceremony to cement NI Chamber’s new partnership with North Carolina Chamber.  It marks the start of an exciting new relationship between businesses and universities in Northern Ireland and North Carolina, giving our most innovative and ambitious member companies on both sides of the Atlantic unique access to potential trading relationships, world-leading research, strategic business alliances and many other collaboration opportunities.

By signing, we have committed to work together to promote international trade, access to markets, investment and co-operation and made a pledge to leverage existing synergies between both economies, share research and learning and foster new business relationships.

We have been asked on numerous occasions recently, ‘Why North Carolina?’. Based on our research and experience to date, North Carolina and Northern Ireland are an ideal fit because we both have a growing industry base in Aerospace, Health and Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, Tech and Financial Services. And we are building this relationship from a solid platform, with many links already established by member companies like Almac, Collins Aerospace, Aflac, Teamworks, Queen’s University and others.

This MOU formalises the relationship between Chambers of Commerce in both jurisdictions and highlights the scale of opportunity which exists. It is about deepening current relationships further and acting as a catalyst for the widest future collaboration to help businesses grow across and within each region.

I’m delighted to say that the partnership has been welcomed by a host of political and industry leaders, many of whom were present for the significant event, including James Applegate, U.S. Consul General in Belfast and Professor Margaret Topping, Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University, who travelled with us for the occasion. Already it’s been endorsed by U.S. Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III, who described it as ‘a prototype, which has the potential to be rolled out in other parts of the United States.’ Mr. Kennedy has committed to working with us to deliver on the potential the partnership brings, which of course, we warmly welcome.

North Carolina quite proudly claims to be the ‘Number 1 State for Business’ and the unity of purpose and mission behind its very clear competitive accolades is evident at almost every interaction. In Northern Ireland, we have a way to go when it comes to agreeing and articulating our own proposition and there is a lot we can learn from their example. As a place to do business, we in NI have a unique and compelling proposition which businesses in North Carolina and across the United States recognise – going forward, we need to be bolder about it ourselves.

In that regard, we are committed to leading by example and over the coming months, have a series of intensive activations planned around this MOU, which our members and strategic partners can expect to hear much more about. It opens a whole new international chapter for us and our member businesses and at NI Chamber, we are excited to use our growing network to bring more opportunities to fruition.