(The Center Square) – Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s trade mission next week to the United Kingdom and Ireland will be funded by a nonprofit organization.
The Hawthorn Foundation, operating under a 501(c)6 designation by the Internal Revenue Service, is a membership-based organization. Unlike a charitable nonprofit – a 501(c)3 by the IRS – the Hawthorn Foundation and similar organizations are funded through membership fees and donations to promote the business interests of its members. According to its 2019 IRS filing, Hawthorn had revenues of $4.4 million and expenses of $4.2 million.
The organization’s largest source of revenue ($2.4 million) in 2019 was grants from the state of Missouri, however all trade missions are paid for by membership dues ($848,135), according to Hawthorn executive director Becky Willard. The funding from the state is specifically for business attraction and development, primarily performed by the Missouri Partnership, also a 501(c)6 nonprofit.
“None of the (state) funds are used for trade missions, so any funding we receive from the state is kept separate,” Willard said during an interview with The Center Square. “Anything that goes toward trade missions are dollars that we raise. They are private dollars from entities throughout the state.
Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson will visit Cambridge and London in the U.K. and Dublin, Ireland, from March 11-19. A media release from Parson’s office said his delegation will meet with government officials, diplomats and business leaders. They also will meet with company representatives with existing business relationships in Missouri.
“This is an exciting opportunity to support relationships with international companies, which are important to our state’s economic growth,” Parson said in a statement. “Missouri-made products are sold and shipped to locations across the globe. I look forward to meeting with leaders and officials in the U.K. and Ireland as we continue promoting our state as an ideal location to grow and expand business.”
In Cambridge, Parson is scheduled to take part in an ag-tech roundtable discussion with a network of innovative farmers, producers, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs. The focus will be increasing productivity, profitability and sustainability of agriculture.
In Ireland, the delegation will receive political, economic and commercial briefings from the U.S. Embassy Irish Country team.
Missouri exported approximately $484 million in goods to the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2021. Non-electrical machinery and chemicals were the most exported to the United Kingdom while chemicals and fabricated metal products were the most sold to Ireland.
Parson’s scheduled trade mission in November 2021 to Greece and Israel was cancelled at the beginning of the worldwide Omicron strain of COVID-19 due to travel restrictions.
Hawthorn, the nonprofit funding the trip, was created more than 40 years ago by Kit Bond after his election as governor. The Republican went on to serve in the U.S. Senate. Bond wanted to attract new business to Missouri, but didn’t want to do so at taxpayer expense. Bond’s consulting firm, Kit Bond Strategies, received $189,150 in compensation from Hawthorn in 2019, according to the IRS filing.
“People decided a long time ago before me that (trade missions) were not a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Willard said. “I think that’s why we’re here. There are businesses and people who are happy to contribute to that effort so that it’s not paid for by taxpayers.”