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Ireland's upswing could benefit W.Pa. companies

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Ireland's growing economy could mean opportunities for U.S. companies, and the Pittsburgh Irish Business Network says it can help companies take advantage of lower corporate taxes, competitive wage costs and a smart, young workforce.

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and the network hope to organize a delegation to go to next season's Penn State-Central Florida game on Aug. 30 in Dublin.

“We want to have an opportunity for Pittsburgh and Ireland companies to connect,” said James Lamb, the institute president.

Though some Pittsburgh-area companies have footholds in Ireland, no Irish companies have established a significant presence here, said Lamb and Phil Cynar of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, which markets the region to companies.

“We hope to change that, as a secondary goal,” Lamb said.

The Pittsburgh Irish Business Network and the Brehon Law Society on Wednesday held an event Downtown to attract members, with a presentation from the Industrial Development Authority of Ireland. Lamb said he hopes 150 dues-paying members will join.

Ireland's economy, once too weak for its companies to invest overseas, began to grow in 2000, benefiting from the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate — about 67 percent below the average American rate of 35 percent — its younger workforce and its status as an entry point to doing business in Europe.

The bottom fell out during the global recession that began in 2008, but Ireland again has become a desirable place to do business, Lamb said.

Irish companies, however, have not invested in Western Pennsylvania, he said, instead opening units in Florida, Washington and Eastern Pennsylvania.

Among Pittsburgh companies in Ireland: UPMC has cancer centers in Waterford and Dublin and a hospital in Dublin; Bank of New York Mellon has offices in Dublin and Cork; Federated Investors has mutual funds from offices in Dublin; Unity-based Kennametal Inc.'s Extrude Hone unit has a plant near Shannon; and PPG Industies' Transitions optical unit has a manufacturing plant in Taum.

Last year, Canonsburg-based Mylan Inc., said it will invest $100 million in Ireland over five years at research and development and manufacturing sites in Dublin and Galway. Mylan has about 700 workers in Ireland who make respiratory, injectable and oral solid products.

CEO Heather Bresch said Ireland “has proven to be a valuable location for Mylan, providing the company with access to a skilled and highly educated workforce.”

Skip Smith, chief operating officer of North Side-based Confluence Inc., a software provider to investment management companies, is expanding in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“Dublin is a key servicing area for the European community,” Smith said. “We view Ireland, and Dublin specifically, as a financial gateway to the global fund industry.”

Confluence sees a $1 billion business opportunity worldwide, including $125 million in Ireland.

John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer

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