The Commercial Service of the United States Embassy hosted a workshop in Ogdensburg for Canadian companies interested in exploring business expansion opportunities in the U.S. market. The event was sponsored by the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada.
"This was a spectacular event for Canadian firms that have shown an interest in expanding into the United States. The business community members from Canada at the forum - and they came by the dozens - were engaged, asked good questions and had an opportunity to find out about the great opportunities to do business in this region," Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne said.
Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins, co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, presented the key note address.
This workshop included presentations on topics ranging from establishing a U.S. corporation and work visas to tax implications for Canadian firms and incentives for business expansion projects.
Assemblywoman Jenne told the workshop attendees that all levels of government are working together in an effort to grow business and jobs in the North Country.
"We are working in a cooperative approach across the region, a cooperative approach to economic development. We will make sure everybody you need to know gets brought to the table," she said, welcoming members of the Canadian business community to St. Lawrence County.
"We have communities with university settings here. We have traditional manufacturing communities that are shifting toward high tech. We also have bucolic settings, if that better suits your needs," she added.
"We also have redundant internet, and now we have communities that are one gig up, one gig down. We have five colleges from Watertown to Massena, and they have strategic relationships with other institutions of higher education," the assemblywoman pointed out.
Assemblywoman Jenne said the North Country workforce is talented and capable. She said the skill set they carry - rooted in the region's agricultural roots - includes a willingness to work hard and the ability to problem solve, traits many learned as they watched their grandparents at work.
"A lot of North Country kids, because of those work skills, are snapped up wherever they go to find work. We know we generate a world class workforce. It would be great if you could help us keep them here," she said.
"We have everything you need to succeed here, and we are here to help you," Assemblywoman Jenne stressed.
The afternoon session was highlighted by a presentation by William Fry, president of Canexsys Network. He talked about his firm's recent establishment of a manufacturing facility in Ogdensburg.
"It was exciting and gratifying to hear Mr. Fry share the story of his business opening its doors in Ogdenburg. His experience showed the messages they heard from state, county and local officials weren't just a sales pitch. Hats off to the team at the St. Lawrence County IDA and the OBPA for being able to back up what they say. The takeaway was it is essential to continue doing the hard work of developing and attracting small businesses," Assemblywoman Jenne reiterated.
"We are seeing with Canexys, for example, that work has translated into employment opportunities for local workers, and the company expects to continue to increase the number of employees at its Ogdensburg plant," she noted.
Canexsys Networks Inc. has leased a space at the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Commerce Park. The company specializes in the manufacture of electronic circuit boards, connectors, metal fabrication and injection mold plastic.
Mr. Fry said Canexsys has reached full capacity at its current manufacturing facility and started at looking at options for expansion in Ontario and in the United States.
"We have a lot of U.S. customers, and we had to expand. We also looked at South Carolina and Arizona, but this area was best for us. We came here because the business was right for us, not because we were looking for U.S. customers," he stressed.
Mr. Fry, who said he lives on the other side of the St. Lawrence River from Ogdensburg, said his relationship with local officials dates back two years to a similar Expand to the U.S. workshop.
"Everything you are hearing here is true. Our costs to run a plant here are considerably cheaper on all sorts of levels ... Our electricity is about one-fifth of what you are paying," he said.
"The enthusiasm you feel in this room is genuine. They mean it. The resources the IDA provided havemade it so easy. They set up a meeting for me, and everybody was in the room - Empire State Development, three banks, everybody I needed to meet with," he recalled.
"We started here in June. We are up to 16 to 18 employees. The plan was 11. We hired another six this week. The workforce here is positive, upbeat. It has been a very positive experience," the Canexsys president reiterated.
Assemblywoman Jenne said it was obvious Mr. Fry's message was well received by Canadian business leaders in the room considering expansion into the United States.
"We know creating more employment opportunities in the North Country is critical. It is clear the work being done in this region is starting to get results. This week's workshop offered proof local economic development officials are doing the right things to attract more jobs to our region," she said.
IN THE PHOTOS:
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne speaks at the Expand to the U.S. workshop held at the Dobinsky Center in Ogdensburg.