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Missouri Seeks Stronger Business Ties To Ireland

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly 30 Irish businesses have a presence in Missouri, but local government and business leaders in the state want to see more.

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and the Missouri Partnership on Monday released a handbook on investing in Missouri. They want to provide Irish businesses with resources and mentors so more will consider expansion in the region.

The World Trade Center St. Louis hosted an event Monday evening at the Enterprise Holdings headquarters in Clayton, featuring a panel of business leaders from Ireland and St. Louis. The car rental company has operated in Ireland for over 20 years.

Mark Redmond, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, highlighted the success of long-term St. Louis-Ireland partnerships. He added that as an extension of the handbook, St. Louis business leaders will volunteer as mentors and coaches for Irish businesses looking for an opportunity in Missouri.

“I’m blown away by this part of the United States of America,” Redmond said. “We’re blown away by the spirit of enterprise, the sense of community, by the quality of the lifestyle you have here, by the connectivity. Quite frankly we feel at home here.”

Missouri already does considerable business with Ireland. The state exports more than $85 million worth of products and imports $48 million worth of Irish goods, according to the handbook.

During the event, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said it’s not just about bringing more businesses and jobs to the region.

“It’s really, truly about partnership,” he said. “It’s, 'How do both of our countries benefit? How does the state of Missouri benefit with Ireland when we make these trips?' And what do you really get done, and how do we partner?”

This is the second time Redmond has been to St. Louis representing the group, thanks in part to St. Louis native Kevin O’Malley. 

He served as the American Ambassador to Ireland during the Obama administration. O’Malley said his position allowed him to talk about St. Louis, putting it on the map for Irish businesses. Now, he said the opportunities are maturing.

“What the Irish business community is learning now is that in a place like St. Louis, you have far more opportunity to fail. If you go to the east coast, to the west coast, you may get one shot,” he said.

He also noted the lower cost of living in St. Louis.

O’Malley said a relationship with Ireland is a good thing for St. Louis businesses, too, considering Ireland is a gateway to the European Union.

“It’s just not selling, or exposing your product to the four and a half million people that live in Ireland. It’s using Ireland as a base to reach out to the 550 million consumers in the European Union,” he said. 

O'Malley added that a connection to Ireland is also important because it may soon be the only English-speaking country in the EU if the United Kingdom leaves.

During the U.S. visit, representatives from Trinity College Dublin also visited the Cortex Innovation District to seek advice on how to develop their own startup environment.

Correction: The event was hosted by the World Trade Center St. Louis. A previous version of this article listed the wrong organization.

Follow Corinne on Twitter:@corinnesusan

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.