Selling abroad
Business people head to northern Russia to study markets

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 22/00) - Representatives of the Northern business community were briefed on an upcoming trip to Russia by the three Northern chambers of commerce last Thursday.

The executive directors of the NWT, Nunavut and Yukon chambers will embark on a 10-day voyage to northern Russia in June to study its market potential for Northern and aboriginal small and medium enterprises.

They will be joined by market consultant Stephen Nichols, circumpolar analyst Thembi Kamanga-Silundika of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and an interpreter to assist them on their voyage.

"We're on a fact-finding mission," said Bob Brooks, executive director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the mission.

Brooks said the NWT has been extensively involved in Russian projects over the years, most recently with the Canada Village project in 1996.

He said Russian municipalities are eager to deal with territorial companies and now is the time to take advantage of potential business opportunities.

"They know what it's like to live in these types of climates so the NWT actually has a foot in the door simply because of our climate and proximity," he said.

"I think there is a link for us to maintain here," said Joe Handley, NWT minister of Finance and Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, who also attended the meeting.

"It seems to me that there's a lot more opportunities there for us ... if we want to play at the table," said Handley.

He added that competition with Western European businesses could be fierce because of their accessibility to Russian markets.

Thembi Kamanga-Silundika of DIAND said she hopes the study will especially capture the interests of small- and medium-sized businesses.

"The hope and the expectations at the end of the day, maybe in a couple of years or so, is that there will be some very direct linkages formed at the grassroots business level," she said.

Consultant Stephen Nichols said the goal of this mission is to show that the three territories are interested in developing a good working relationship with northern Russia.

"They have all sorts of requirements over the next few years that we can help them with," said Nichols.

"All we need to do is enable them to work with our chambers."