By KELLY LOUISEIZE
Refocused with a business-driven directive, the 12th annual Northern Networks Trade Conference promises to bring opportunities to eager Canadian businesses seeking out markets in the United States.
In the past, the trade show’s direction drifted off from a business-to-business genre to an economic development conference, but now senior trade advisor with Midwest Alliance Bill Boulton, says they are back in business.
In a few words, the event is a cross-border bi-national trade conference devoted to the creation of ventures between northwestern Ontario and northwestern United States businesses.
It runs Sept. 7-10, and is designed to encourage business-to-consumer networking and strategic alliances, while strengthening existing partnerships.
As Canadian construction, retail, supply and manufacturing companies sign up for the event, organizers try to match them with Duluth, Wisconsin and Minnesota businesses.
In past years, Fibretech Manufacturing Corp., NorFab Building Components Ltd., Granite Tops Inc., Innotech and Gingrich Woodcrafts Inc. have benefited from these events .
“One of the focuses is that we are trying to get buyers out, like Target for example,” Boulton says.
Several other big box retailers have been given invitations.
A Thunder Bay Bombardier plant official is expected at the event, Boulton says. “Bombardier purchases an awful lot of components to build their rail cars,” Boulton says, adding small, unique component manufacturing facilities might utilize this venue to create synergies.
But Boulton knows business leaders will need to understand how to sell to big companies, so an overview session is set up for eager business exporters.
The City of Duluth is playing host this year, with the Mayor Herb Bergson devoting numerous key officials to the show, which will be held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Centre.
Canadian businesses ship approximately $470 billion a year in products into the United States according to Boulton.
“Each product is different, our service is different and so it is pretty easy to get across.”
There are rules, but the market is huge.
“Within a 12 hour ride from (Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Atitkokan) there are 35 million people, more than the population of Canada.”
It is easier to deal with from a logistics and transportation perspective, as well. Home-grown products have to be shipped thousands of miles across Canadian provinces, so the expenses are higher, he says.
“We are quite competitive in the U.S., and well liked, too,” Boulton says, adding that Canadian business still have a bit of a dollar edge.