By Ian Ross
An upcoming results-oriented trade mission to Georgia is expected to be a hot ticket for export-ready firms seeking to gain a foothold in one of the more lucrative and pro-business regimes in North America.
The North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce and FedNor are organizing a six-day trade mission to Atlanta, Ga. this spring geared toward northern companies anxious to build business relationships inside the fastest growing U.S. market.
"We're looking for companies ready to do deals," says Jay Aspin, an export development adviser with the chamber. "We're not looking for the curious. We want to go down with companies with the capacity to establish relationships and grow."
Canadian business conducts about $26 billion worth of trade with Georgia annually, ahead of the United Kingdom. It is this country’s third-largest trading partner, says Aspin.
Theoretically, he says, the annual gross domestic product of the region’s seven southeastern states combined would comprise the fifth-largest country in the world.
About 24 per cent of the state's exports are destined for Canada, and the pro-business climate established by various government agencies has been a magnet for many Canadian firms to set up shop there.
Amidst this booming activity, the extremely competitive value of the loonie is particularly advantageous to domestic manufacturers sourcing raw material in the Canadian market.
Opportunities abound in virtually every sector. But the mission, which runs April 27 to May 2, is concentrating on the following areas: manufacturing and processing technologies, agriculture, agri-food and food products, aviation/aerospace, biotechnology/ medical services and health care, construction and building products, energy products and technology, information technology and telecommunications and transportation.
The deadline for companies to register by mail, fax or online through the trade mission Web site is Feb. 15. Based on certain criteria for the mission, applicants’ company profiles will be forwarded to an Atlanta consultant assigned to pick out potential partners for one-on-one matchmaking sessions and arrange the appointments.
Only a select few companies considered ready to establish genuine business relationship will be chosen - about 15 to 20 companies - and placed on the packed itinerary that could accommodate as many as 10 appointments for some participants during the trip.
The selected delegates should be notified by April and will be encouraged to do their research on their American counterparts prior to the mission.
The desired results are expected to open doors to developing solid business relationships that may end up as joint-venture opportunities, he adds.
"The analogy I use in matchmaking...is we're just not going with a fishing pole, we're going down with a fish finder."
Aspin adds this initiative may have legs beyond the mission and may create a more permanent and collaborative Northern Ontario regional trading block.
FedNor is "advancing a vision" in building up a pan-northern network comprised of economic and community development departments to better market northern companies to the world, rather than have individual communities work in isolation.
"I've seen the possibilities," says Aspin, who offers export consultations to North Bay area companies and entrepreneurs, "and this is certainly where to go in Northern Ontario.
"We've got firms here that can compete globally with the advent of Internet and electronic media, it's just a natural."