Matchmakers pair local businesses with investors

Kootenay businesses meet with investment matchmakers

For the first time, B.C.’s International Trade and Investment Representative stopped in the Kootenay region this past week.

A group of eight was welcomed at the St. Eugene Mission Resort on October 23 to meet with local small businesses to match them with investors abroad. They traveled from China, the U.S., Europe, India, South Korea and Japan.

John McDonald, managing director of East China, said the tour is helping the representatives better understand the markets and opportunities available across the province.

Minister for Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell told the Townsman said it’s great to have the representatives see areas of the province they haven’t been to previously.

“We’re really excited to have out Trade and Investment Representatives travelling around the province having them come in to places like Cranbrook and Kimberley,” Bell said. “The trade representatives are interested in the economic agenda of each individual community.”

Cathy Yao, managing director for South China, said investors in her region are interested in importing more cherries from the Creston region to complement the fruit they receive from the Okanagan area. The tour helps the representatives find those opportunities and pair them with potential investors.

“We do a lot of match making for customers,” she said.

Kevin Tsui said seeing the region they are trying to promote is important.

“We can actually tell the story of the Kootenays,” he said. “Being here helps us kind of crystallize the opportunity.”

McDonald said they were meeting specifically with small businesses on the current tour of the province.

“To be honest, big industry is already there,” he said. “It’s not big business that needs help.”

Tsui, McDonald and Yao all represent China, and they say the country is slowly becoming aware of what the Kootenays have to offer.

“The kootenay region is not a region a lot of Chinese know about,” Tsui said.

The Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce gathered local small businesses and forwarded them to the representatives. Meeting with the group for the first time was Brenda Palmer of Mrs. Palmer’s Pantry. She was able to make new connections and discuss exporting her locally made pita chips internationally.

“We have shipped to Hong Kong in the past and we wanted to expand our export market,” she said.

Palmer handed out samples at the St. Eugene meeting and was able to forward on contacts she made to her Vancouver-based exporter to follow up on. Mrs. Palmer’s Pantry began in Cranbrook 17 years ago and continues to operate its factory on Slater Road.

“It really opened up a lot of opportunity for us,” Palmer said of the meeting. “I think it’s really great that our Chamber works to support our small businesses.”

Chamber president Karin Penner said the representatives brought a unique opportunity to Kootenay businesses, and they were happy to work with them to identify small businesses looking to expand internationally. She said the tour left a wonderful impression on the visitors.

“Some of them had never seen snow before,” Penner said.

The tour covered much of Highway 3, starting off in the Elk Valley before hitting Cranbrook and moving on to Creston, Castlegar, Trail and Rossland. McDonald said they hope to come back to tour the Columbia Valley Golden, Invermere and Radium and the Highway 1. Tsui said he hopes to visit again in the summer to get a different picture of the communities.