Tuesday 24 September 2019

America's 'fly over' states are worth a stop off for Irish business

For Irish companies willing to look beyond familiar stomping grounds on the East and West coasts of the US, the doors of the US Mid-West are now wide open for business. Stock photo: Getty
For Irish companies willing to look beyond familiar stomping grounds on the East and West coasts of the US, the doors of the US Mid-West are now wide open for business. Stock photo: Getty

Mark Redmond

For Irish companies willing to look beyond familiar stomping grounds on the East and West coasts of the US, the doors of the US Mid-West are now wide open for business.

Ireland continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the eurozone, with the strongest economic growth of any Member State registered for the last five consecutive years.

However, the global economy continues to face uncertainties, with global trade tensions rising and Brexit dominating the discussion here in Ireland. As market share is threatened in one region, the question is: Where can companies look to for new opportunities?

I hear these questions from Irish companies thinking of expanding into the vast US economy: Is it worth it? Where is the value? How can I weigh up the costs against the opportunity?

These companies are really surprised to hear that Ireland is the ninth-largest investor in the US.

700 Irish companies employ over 100,000 people across the US - operating in sectors such as life-sciences, nutrition, security, construction and sustainability.

Every year over 500,000 Irish tourists spend over €2bn in the US economy. 325,000 US jobs are dependent on goods and services destined for Ireland.

Ireland is the only EU Member State with US Border Control pre-clearance - when you get on the plane at Dublin or Shannon you are already in the US. Ireland, and businesses based here, have a unique position as a gateway to both the US and the EU.

On a recent mission across US mid-west States, we visited markets where opportunity is flourishing and where the red carpet is being rolled out for Irish investors. In fact, Irish companies are already making serious inroads.

Supporting this trend, the American Chamber, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, visited Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois in August to launch State specific 'Invest in the US' guides for Irish business.

In each location, we found a pro-business approach, a great quality of life, a thriving commercial environment and a really impressive education and research ecosystem, coupled with a competitive cost environment. We also met with Irish companies who have already established operations and created jobs and who are going from strength to strength.

We were really impressed with the number of partners at State level willing to put resources to work for Irish companies thinking of investing.

In Ohio for example, AmCham partnered with JobsOhio, TeamNEO and Columbus 2020, all of whom demonstrated all that the Buckeye State has to offer. With a strong advanced manufacturing base it is fast becoming a go-to location for much of the innovation which is a strong part of Ireland's ecosystem.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, 27 Irish companies have operations and the US and Ireland share a growing trade relationship worth over €138 million dollars.

In Illinois, Ireland's Consul General in Chicago hosted an impressive gathering of Irish companies established in Illinois together with more recent arrivals - all of whom reported that the hard work to break into the market was well worth it.

Minister Ciaran Cannon launched our Wisconsin Guide in Milwaukee which coincided with Milwaukee Irish Fest - the world's largest Irish music event.

As ever, making all this thrive is the work of Ireland's Embassy and Consulates abroad, and State agencies like Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland who do great work selling the Ireland proposition.

This, alongside the Government's pledge to double Ireland's global footprint shows that Ireland is ready to do more business on the global stage.

The avenues of international trade and investment are turning increasingly two-way and Ireland is a global leader. As US States ask themselves how they can attract more investment, it's time to hit the tarmac and share the benefits of our experience.

Business leader David Walsh of Netwatch makes the point: "Our Irishness opened those doors, but it didn't win us business".

On the basis of what we have experienced across these four Mid West States, the doors are wide open for Irish business and great business is there to be won.

Mark Redmond is CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland

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