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Missouri-Ireland panel

Panelists speak about partnerships between Missouri and Ireland at an event Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, at Enterprise Holdings in Clayton. Photo by Annika Merrilees amerrilees@post-dispatch.com

Irish businesses looking to expand to Missouri have new resources.

The program launched by American Chamber of Commerce Ireland was announced at an event Monday at Enterprise Holdings, a Clayton-based company with ties to Ireland. In addition to Enterprise Ireland, the rental car giant’s wholly owned subsidiary, Deem, announced in May that it would create a new innovation center in Dublin.

Mark Redmond, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, said Irish companies should understand that the U.S. is, in some ways, more like a collection of countries than a single one. Each state has different requirements for taxes, permitting and regulations. Through the new mentor program, companies can gain understanding of these intricacies and some of the broader knowledge required for employing workers in the U.S., such as 401(k)s and health insurance plans.

The idea stemmed from similar programs geared toward Irish companies expanding to the U.S. and vice-versa. The chamber is now launching state-specific guides, beginning with four states: Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The mentor program includes five members of Missouri’s business community who will offer pro bono counseling to Irish companies looking to expand to the state.

Mark Sutherland, chief marketing officer for the Missouri Partnership and one of the five Missouri mentors, echoed Redmond’s sentiment that foreign businesses need to understand the nuances of each state’s business environment. A lot of companies, he said, see the U.S. as one big place and believe that it doesn’t matter where exactly they go.

But the country is made up of 50 unique regulatory environments and 50 unique business environments, Sutherland said. Choosing the wrong one can have significant negative consequences; choosing the right one can be a great advantage.

The World Trade Center St. Louis hosted Monday’s event, which was attended by business leaders from Ireland and St. Louis. Attendees included representatives from Enterprise Holdings, Cortex Innovation Community, Trinity College Dublin and Yield Lab Europe. Speakers emphasized the ongoing partnerships between the two geographies, such as the Galway, Ireland-based arm of Yield Lab, an agriculture-technology investment firm located in Creve Coeur.

As of June, Yield Lab Europe has invested in seven startups since its launch in 2017. And earlier this summer, Yield Lab announced that it had raised $23.6 million for a new European venture capital fund, which would be managed by Yield Lab Europe.

“This part of our state is truly on the fast track,” said Gov. Mike Parson at Monday’s event. Parson had recently returned from meetings with business leaders in Australia, and he noted, “St. Louis... is one of the talking points I always use when I go overseas.”

Trinity College Dublin is in the planning phases for an innovation district, drawing from other such projects around the world, including St. Louis’ Cortex.

Though Cortex and other innovation districts have offered insight, Trinity College’s project will be unique, said Dennis Lower, president and CEO of Cortex.

“Though the principles are fundamental, the way they’re applied in that environment ... will be entirely different,” Lower said.

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