Irish ambassador to U.S. takes care of some business while in Charleston

In addition to helping dedicate the S.C. Irish Memorial in Charleston, Irish Ambassador Michael Collins (right) talked about immigration and attended to other business while in town.

Bruce Smith

Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins, was in Charleston last week to dedicate a new waterfront park that pays tribute to his countrymen who came here to build a new life. But that wasn’t all the Emerald Isle’s top diplomat did during his visit to the Holy City.

Collins was feted by the Hibernian and S.C. Irish Historical societies a week ago Sunday, ate breakfast with a business group at the Harbour Club just before the monument ceremony, and then visited the Boeing 787 plant in North Charleston on Monday afternoon.

After 10-term Charleston Mayor Joe Riley welcomed Collins at the World Trade Center Charleston breakfast, Collins thanked him warmly, then quipped in his brogue, “I don’t know a leader in the western democratic world who’s held office as long as you have.”

He made pitches for not only immigration reform measures pending in Congress — Collins said there are 50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S., in part because of our restrictive policy — and a prospective U.S.-Europe free trade agreement.

He also lobbied for American businesses to invest in his recovering, export-heavy nation and for people to visit Ireland for The Gathering, a campaign to bring the global diaspora home this year. Collins said there are 40 million Americans of Irish ancestry, 600,000 of which are in South Carolina.

“Think of Ireland in terms of tourism. Think of Ireland in terms of opportunity,” he said.

At least one person in the audience was thinking that way: Anita Zucker, CEO of The InterTech Group. Earlier this year, the North Charleston-based family holding company paid about $18.4 million for an office complex in a development near downtown Dublin. InterTech also owns a stake in Irish produce company Fyffes, and Zucker told the Irish contingent that she planned to pay them a return visit next spring.

Lowcountry Local First will host a networking event for entrepreneurs at the Charleston Museum on Thursday.

The nonprofit’s GOODBusiness summit, which is meant to be a venue to make pitches and meet collaborators and mentors, will feature presentations from the likes of Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin and Dave Dawson of Urban Electric Co., according to a press release.

The all-day event is $150 for Lowcountry Local First members; $75 for students; $175 for others. Register at

The CEO of the biggest publicly traded business based in the Charleston area will preside over his last annual shareholders event this week.

Blackbaud Inc.’s annual meeting is set for Wednesday at the software firm’s Daniel Island headquarters.

Among other business, stockholders will vote to: elect two directors, including outgoing CEO Marc Chardon; approve executive compensation; and appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers as the company’s outside accounting firm.

The 10 a.m. meeting comes at a transitional time for Blackbaud, which makes fundraising software for nonprofits. Chardon is slated to step down as CEO by year’s end or earlier if a successor is hired by then.

Attention Charleston-area nonprofit, business and educator types: Googlefest is back. A year after hosting hundreds at Trident Technical College in North Charleston for an all-day seminar on Google’s various tools, the Internet giant is doing it all again.

The free event is scheduled for Wednesday. It will feature presentations and training sessions on advertising and communication programs like Google Hangouts or Google+. Google employees will show attendees how to set up a website.

Go to to register.

A transportation trade group that makes sure the trains run on time and full of freight is holding its annual conference in Charleston this week.

It’s the first time in the Houston-based Railway Industrial Clearance Association’s nearly 45-year history that its members will meet in the Holy City.

Through Wednesday, roughly 400 transportation professionals are huddling at the Charleston Marriott to talk about domestic logistics, rail and ocean freight, and the economic outlook.

The conference kicked off with a reception Sunday at the S.C. Aquarium. The State Ports Authority, which is building a rail-served “inland port” with Norfolk Southern in Spartanburg County, was the host. The agenda includes a tour of the Port of Charleston.