Ireland's second-largest city after Dublin, Cork draws big business with a warm Irish welcome.
It may be only a tenth the size of Dublin, but Ireland's second-largest city offers such a wealth of arts, education, history, recreation and commerce that proponents score Cork City with a perfect 10. Situated on an island embraced by two channels of the River Lee, the city which originated on marshland (hence its Irish name, Coraigh, from corcach, meaning swamp) has transformed itself into a major metropolitan center.
An important trading hub since the Middle Ages, Cork sent hides, wool and cloth around the globe and famously became the world's largest exporter of butter. When the potato famine struck, its port saw the departure of thousands of immigrants overseas, and during the civil wars fierce battles between British and Irish left this rebel town burned and pillaged. Late in the 20th century, when the shipbuilding industry and local Ford and Dunlop plants closed down, Cork turned to other opportunities. With the emergence of technology it has successfully attracted major international corporations.
Amazon, Apple, Avery Dennison, Centocor, CitCo, EMC, McAfee, MVware and Siemens are among multinationals attracted by the educated, English-speaking workforce of close to half a million in the greater city area. Additional lures include business parks providing utilities infrastructure, telecommunications and building site options and the city's welcoming, convivial atmosphere.
Pharmaceuticals Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer manufacture in the region; much of the world's Viagra originates in Cork. Murphy's Irish Stout (now owned by Heineken) and Beamish and Crawford are bottled here, and the country's two main national newspapers - the Irish Examiner and the Cork Independent publish in Cork.
Called one of the most attractive business environments in the world, the region's investment incentives include unrestrictive product market regulation, a low 12.5 percent corporation tax and tax credits of up to 20 percent for qualifying research and development projects. The Cork City Enterprise Board aids start-ups, offering new business grants and expert advice to local entrepreneurs.
Several institutions of higher learning contribute a steady and reliable source of workers. Besides engineering and arts courses at University College Cork, the Cork Institute of Technology, Cork Music School and the Crawford College of Art and Design, other schools offer medicine, nautical studies, commerce and vocational preparation and training. Also located in town is Tyndall National Institute, a worldclass research facility specializing in photonics, electronics, nanotechnologies and their applications.
An elected lord mayor handles ceremonial proceedings while a city manager appointed to a five-year term oversees town planning. Recent projects include regulating traffic to preserve the vibrancy of the historic downtown area and initiating development of the former auto and tire factory docklands into a major financial services center. In the planning stages are a digital media district in the city center and an outlying knowledge zone to facilitate knowledgebased businesses.
The charming historic center of the city boasts brightly painted shops and stores, many featuring typical Corkonian Georgian bow windows. Meandering St. Patrick's Street, the major thoroughfare originally built on arches over a river channel, was recently remodeled into a pedestrian-friendly lane mingling pharmacies, jewelry shops, bookstores, boutiques and the high-end Brown Thomas and Marks & Spencer department stores. Pick up some tripe, pigs' feet, buttered eggs and other traditional foods at the refurbished 1786 Old English Market(Grand Parade, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.). Coal Quay Market (Cornmarket Street) on the site of the city's original open-air marketplace is a junk hunter's paradise.
Dominating the skyline, the 17-story Elysian, a luxury apartment garden complex, is Ireland's tallest building. Sightseers can visit surviving gates and remnant sections of the medieval city wall and view St. Finbarr's Cathedral, named for the city's 6th-century founder. Shandon Church Tower with its four-sided clock, salmon weathervane and acclaimed bells is a symbol of the city, and its 120-foot climb provides a cityscape overview.