MASSENA Proximity to the Canadian border is a key asset to prospective companies looking at the north country, according to economic development officials.
Nearly 40 owners or representatives of Ottawa and Montreal businesses gathered Thursday to find out more about the assets Massena and the north country have to offer. They listened to presentations Thursday morning at the New York Power Authoritys Hawkins Point Visitors Center, ate lunch and heard U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, speak at Vino Vidi Vici Restaurant, and concluded with a bus tour of the Massena Industrial Park and the General Motors Powertrain site.
We want to raise our profile. We want to make sure Canadian companies are thinking about expanding into the U.S., said Patrick J. Kelly, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency. We wanted to provide a forum where we can work on building cross-border relationships.
Thursdays event was nearly six months in the making, Mr. Kelly said. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada and the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust are among the agencies that worked alongside the IDA to coordinate the event, he said.
It demonstrates to our targeted companies that we have an ability and a willingness to work together to facilitate their expansion into St. Lawrence County, Mr. Kelly said.
The 40 who attended are associated with small to medium-sized businesses, mostly between Ottawa and Montreal. Two buses picked the business people up from those cities to take them to Massena early Thursday. One prospect came from as far as Toronto, Mr. Kelly said.
Events like Thursdays are vital to attracting prospective Canadian companies, Mr. Kelly said.
We dont have a high enough notoriety. If we dont seek out these companies, theyre not going to come here by accident, he said. We have to find what sets us apart, highlight it and build upon it.
Presentations from agencies such as the Massena Electric Department, the New York Power Authority and RACER, which owns the GM site, touted the access to low-cost hydropower, a skilled work force and other assets, Mr. Kelly said.
The IDA will follow up by visiting many of the companies to see how they could be a good fit in Massena or the county, then match their needs to available commercial and industrial space.
The IDA attempted a similar event in Massena five or six years ago but it didnt generate enough support, Mr. Kelly said.
Weve gotten better at our effort to draw people in, Mr. Kelly said. Maybe its a sign that people are more willing to look at investment opportunities.
Bruce Rasher, RACERs redevelopment manager, said some of the business people who attended are in the initial stages of exploring an expansion into the U.S. while others are further along.
This is a unique opportunity because were able to interact directly with Canadian companies that are here to learn more about the market, Mr. Rasher said.
Thursdays event also sends the right impression to anyone considering the GM site, he said.
They will come away, rightly so, thinking the community is working together to attract investment, he said.
At the luncheon, Mr. Owens said the federal Beyond the Border agreement begun last winter should help ease cross-border travel for Canadian and American businesses in future years.
If you can be an hour away from your U.S. subsidiary, that makes a great deal of sense, Mr. Owens said. Goods will be able to be moved more quickly because they are going to be pre-cleared.
Clearly we went through a period where we became very concerned about security, Mr. Owens said.
I dont think thats lessening. I think were getting better at it.