In Profile: Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce, Calgary

Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce, Calgary Laureen Regan

In the latest of our special series of profiles, Laureen Regan, President and Founder of the Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce, Calgary, talks about doing business in Calgary and the province of Alberta.

Can you tell us a little about the ICCCC?

The Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce in Calgary works to promote and support bilateral trade between Alberta and Ireland.  We create collaboration opportunities and business connections between Irish and Canadian professionals through networking and industry-specific events featuring key business leaders and diplomats.

What originally brought you to Calgary?

Waterford born, my family immigrated to Alberta for work many years ago. Here they found many opportunities, a strong entrepreneurial spirit to match their own and a welcoming community.

What advice would you give Irish companies about business in Alberta?

Irish Companies looking to start or set up a business in Alberta can see success if they are committed to maintaining a permanent presence here. It is difficult to gain traction when visits to Alberta are monthly or only every few weeks. Relationships are very important in the business community. It takes time, in market, to build connections and foster and grow the relationships needed to succeed.

Why Calgary? Top three things that make it a great place to live and do business

  1. Quality of Life

We are ranked in the top 5 most liveable cities in the world. The pool of highly qualified workers has made Calgary a global talent hub that is home to innovators and entrepreneurs.

The City has the benefits of having a large metropolitan centre,  friendly and relaxed atmosphere, clean and safe environment, abundant green spaces and parks, longest urban pathway system, and an hour’s drive from the Canadian Rockies.

Calgary is ranked #1, out of Canada’s 100 largest cities for the sunniest days year-round – over 2,300 hours of sunshine annually!

  1. Connected to the World

Calgary has the highest head office concentration per capita in Canada. It has ready access to global markets through a highly integrated transportation and logistics system moving people, products, and services. Calgary also provides access to the rapidly expanding markets in Asia by air and via the Port of Vancouver and is also regarded by many European companies as a gateway to North America.

  1. Low cost of doing business

Compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, Alberta has no provincial sales tax, no health care premiums, lower personal income tax rates and the lowest fuel tax among provinces.

Calgary businesses also benefit from the fact that Alberta has no inventory tax, no machinery and equipment tax and no payroll tax, which are common in many other provinces and U.S. states.

Albertans. across all income ranges, will generally continue to pay the lowest overall taxes compared to other provinces.

If you could give one message to the Irish government about how to improve the Ireland Canada relationship, what would it be?

Canada is a large and diverse country, with much to offer. Alberta has strong, established markets in many sectors including agriculture, advanced industries, energy, renewables, forestry, water, manufacturing and more. Alberta also has leading university and research institutions.

Direct access through WestJet is opening up the Alberta market to Irish businesses and Canadian businesses are eyeing up the Irish and European markets.

Building awareness of the market opportunities in both directions is a crucial first step.

Is the future bright for Irish companies operating in or exporting to Canada?

The future is very bright for Irish companies looking for market access into Canada. Alberta has a strong focus on market diversification and a history of successful partnerships with many countries around the globe.

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, direct flights and a vibrant province that is ‘open for business’ all work together to create a solid foundation for opportunities in multiple sectors.

Alberta opens the doors to Canadian, American and Asian markets.

Anything else you would like to mention…

The time has never been better for Irish and Alberta businesses looking for new markets. Businesses and visitors alike will find a world of opportunity, an affordable business climate, young and educated workforce and a warm welcome in Alberta.

Gerry Mongey – A Tribute

Image from left to right: Kate Hickey, Deirdre Giblin, Gerry Mongey, and Suzanne Drisdell

The ICBA recently presented Gerry Mongey with an honorary lifetime membership as she retired from her role as Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy in Dublin. Here is the tribute paid to her on the evening.

The growth of Ireland’s relationship with Canada in tourism trade and in terms of the sheer number of young Irish people who leave Ireland every year to work in Canada is one of the great success stories in international relations.  It encompasses the recent appointment of an Honorary Consul in Vancouver and the fact that five airlines now direct flights between Ireland and Canada. But it also but goes beyond this, spanning a wide range of areas from education, government, innovation, business to culture and tourism.  

While many individuals and bodies can take credit for this great success, in both Canada and Ireland, it is widely recognised that one individual stands out.  This individual’s contribution can be traced back to one morning in February in 1981 when a young Gerry walked in to the Embassy offices. Gerry Mongey is often described as the central ‘common thread’ in the success of Ireland Canada. For the last 38 years and 8 months she has nurtured the relationship and has steered and guided many who came to work on the relationship down the years.  

Gerry has worked with many ambassadors and trade commissioners in promoting Canada in Ireland. She has helped literally hundreds and hundreds of Canadian companies come into the Irish market to become established and employ many Irish people. She has lead trade mission after trade mission and brought Irish journalist’s and industry experts to conferences in Canada to witness best practice. As a tribute to Gerry’s outstanding contribution Gerry received  a letter from PM Justin Trudeau upon her retirement last week.

Steve Jobs said “Choose to do something you love if not keep looking”. It is fair to say that Gerry’s love of her job made her a joy to work with. Her enthusiasm for Canada is infectious and her professionalism always impressed.

In today’s roller-coaster world, the terms ‘champion and visionary’ are often mis-used and over-used.  In the case of Gerry Mongey, they are completely apt. Since 1981 Gerry has more than delivered on her job in international business development. For Ireland and Canada over the last four decades a great gift has been bestowed, providing inspiration and models for many others in Canada and Ireland.’

In Profile: Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Ottawa

Ireland-Canada Chambers of Commerce Ottawa Jackie Gilna Ottawa

For the second in our series of ICCC profiles, we catch up with Jackie Gilna, President of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Ottawa

Describe ICCCOTT and what its all about…

In cooperation with the Irish and Canadian business community, ICCCOTT established in 2010 promotes and supports programs that focus on trade and investment including sports, culture, and education as they relate to economic growth. We provide networking opportunities for members by organizing events with high profile speakers.  Additionally, we support the business community representing member’s business views before the Irish and Canadian governments in Dublin and Ottawa.

We are committed to resourcefully connecting people and helping foster relationships to further business opportunities and help deepen economic ties between our two countries.

Please describe one of ICCCOTT’s members

We are fortunate to have one of Canada’s most decorated Irish entrepreneurs and leader in our community, businessman Pat Kelly (Galway), Director Community Affairs ICCCOTT. Pat is a recipient of the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Service Award 2012, and founder of the Gales. His success with the Heart and Crown group, construction group Bradley-Kelly and many other business interests is an example to all that hard work, focus, drive, and ambition drive results.

From the beginning of his journey in Canada Pat helped so many who came to Ottawa with a roof over their head, a job to get them started and introductions to help create their opportunities. He is a true example to all. It is often said the Irish abroad do not support each other in business. Not Pat Kelly, he set the bar and leads by example!

What originally brought you to Ottawa?

I spent many of my adult years in the Netherlands. Before leaving I was involved in the Dutch Oil &Gas, Aviation, Marine and Fire Fighting training sector as Managing Director and sat as Director on the Board of Directors for Merger& Acquisitions.

I thrive on challenge and felt ready for a change. It was a family decision and so we moved from the Netherlands via Ireland (nine months) to Ottawa, my Canadian husband’s hometown where his mother, a west-coaster, still lives.

I had no thoughts other than to take a sabbatical and see what inspired me on the next step of life’s journey. The journey subsequently morphed into two acquisitions ripe for management restructuring and two start ups in the tech sector.

Ottawa is a very safe city with a growing international community, tech hubs, talent and  home to the largest employer in the country, the Federal government. We have access to great health care, housing and activities. Yes, the winters get very cold, but the warmth of our great Irish Canadian and local community compensates for the long weeks of boots and tukes!

Why should Irish companies consider Ottawa?

Ottawa has affordable housing costs in comparison to other major Canadian cities.  We are a tech hub with over 1.3m people and 1,750 knowledge-based business employing over 68k people. We boast innovative talent, highly competitive business costs, incubator hubs such as Invest Ottawa and L- Spark, and access to the Embassies of the world to establish international opportunities. Not bad for our small Nation’s capital! And did I mention, it’s only 16 km to the ski slopes?

What are your key pieces of advice for Irish companies starting to do business in this city?

As we are in the nation’s capital Ottawa, a few simple rules to follow are: take the time to build relationships. Be punctual, give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and opportunity will follow.

What’s next for ICCCOTT?

ICCCOTT continue to grow with representatives from predominately three sectors: Legal, Financial Services and Tech.  We enjoy and are grateful for the support of the business community, the Embassy and our Chamber colleagues throughout Canada. We are excited and look forward to a unique event happening in this fall, an ICCCOTT initiative which will bring together the first Pan-Canadian Chamber meeting with guests ICBA and other parties in September 2019.

Check out part 1 of our series of Ireland-Canada Chamber profiles with Lar Quigley of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver

Company Profile: Sovy

SovyJohn Popolizio

Describe your company in 60 words or less

Sovy is the one-stop-shop for simplifying business compliance, providing cloud-based regulatory compliance solutions for Micro and Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) around the world.  Sovy’s affordable subscription services enable a MSME to get compliant and stay compliant with privacy, conduct and anti-fraud regulations for a fraction of the cost of bringing in high-priced experts.

Why did you decide to set up a base in Ireland?

We chose Ireland as our base of operations in the fall of 2017 because of the great support system for high-tech start-ups and deep professional talent base. Crucially, Ireland also has a wide array of international trading partners, so having a base here can create major opportunities to do business with SME’s in several other countries, including Canada.

What has been the most positive aspect of doing business in Ireland?

Ireland is both people and business friendly, and there is a general positive can-do attitude that makes growing a business quite exciting.

What has been your single greatest challenge to date (of operating in Ireland), and how have you approached overcoming it?

The landscape is complex in terms of where to set up operations, and weigh the different areas, talent pools, partnerships and the like.  We have been working with Enterprise Ireland (EI), the Local Enterprise Office in Meath County and trade groups to make informed choices. EI has also been invaluable when it comes to learning about Ireland’s key trading partners and opportunities to scale Sovy by working with companies internationally.

What key piece of advice would you give to a Canadian company thinking of setting up in Ireland?

Take the time to meet the government and public-private partnerships that are set up to help your business become established and known and avail yourself of the many supports those organisations offer. Key organisations that you will want to connect with include Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, and groups like the Ireland Canada Business Association.

In Profile: Ireland-Canada Chambers of Commerce Vancouver

Vancouver Chamber of CommerceVancouver Chamber Lar Quigley

For the first in our series of ICCC profiles, we’re joined by Lar Quigley, President of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver (ICCCVan).

Describe ICCCVan’s genesis and mission

The founding members recognised there was limited support and networking opportunities for the growing Irish community here in the city and sought to address this by establishing a formal chamber.

The Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver (ICCCVan) was subsequently incorporated in late 2017. Initially we had three board members and have since expanded to ten with an all island approach and mandated gender balance.

We support our members by providing them opportunities to hear from senior leaders in the community as well as participate through networking events, roundtables and educational sessions.

ICCCVan maintains close links with our sister chapters across Canada, as well as the Irish Embassy in Ottawa.

Tell us a bit about your membership

We have so many amazing members here at the Chamber, but some interesting entrepreneurial ones have come from Bia Foods (Siobhan Young) and Donnellan’s (William Donnellan) whom both spotted opportunities to better serve the Irish community and have grown impressively in the food and hospitality sectors over the years.
From a general overview, our member’s industry breakdown is reflective of the economy here in the province with remainder mostly composing of professional services.

• 30% Technology
• 25% Natural Resources
• 15% Construction/Engineering

Can you point to an example of a member that started out very small and has grown successfully in Vancouver? is a great example. Since launching in 2012 by Ruairi Spillane, the website has been a one-stop shop for free impartial information and resources to make the transition to Canada enjoyable and simple for prospective immigrants and the recently arrived.

They offer job postings, a ‘getting started’ guide’ and articles covering every step of the journey. Their social forums service thousands of community members.

Ruairi’s accomplishments were recognized on a broader scaler recently when he took home the Immigrant Entrepreneur at the Small BC Business Awards here in Vancouver. Ruairi recently launched with the idea of bringing the same concept to help both new immigrants to Ireland and returning emigrants.

What brought you to Vancouver?

I had made the decision to leave Ireland when I saw some of the early signs of the recession in 2008 and on a whim applied for a Canadian working holiday visa.

I had visited Ontario/Quebec on a vacation in 2006 so that had planted some seeds and gave me a sense of what to expect from a cultural perspective.

Toronto was my original focus as it’s the country’s financial hub and I had a background in treasury banking from Dublin. It was my mother who randomly recommended Vancouver, she had been here at a conference in the 80s and so I opted to start here – ten years later I’m living two blocks from where I started.

What advice would you give to an Irish company starting to do business in Vancouver?

Vancouverites value relationships and the city has a village like feel to it with a compact downtown core. The work style, whilst focused, is more laid back than you’ll find in Dublin and this is driven by having such easy access to the mountains and beaches in the city.

Why Vancouver? Top three things that make this city so great.

Vancouver is Canada’s fasted growing and most diverse metropolitan economy. There are significant opportunities for growth and development in the region. British Columbia has a long history of pioneering technological innovation and has a world class creative and digital media sector.

From a top three perspective:

1. Most liveable and healthiest city in North American.
2. Number 5 on KPMG’s most tax competitive world cities
3. Canada’s number one start-up ecosystem

Anything else you would like to add?

We’re excited to build on our launch momentum to host an upcoming ministerial visit (Ciaran Canon) for the St Patrick’s week festivities.

A special note of thanks to our friends at the Embassy in Ottawa and the new Consulate team here in Vancouver for all their invaluable support.