Although Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, is difficult to reach by air from the Southeast, that didn’t deter 325 participants from attending the fourth annual Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance conference.
To reach Fredericton, some of the 16 registered Georgia delegates flew there by way of Toronto or Montreal while others flew to Bangor, Maine, and carpooled into New Brunswick.
Instead of an isolated city, they found a thriving urban area with a population within the city limits of more than 50,000 that has been recognized by the Financial Times of London as an “American City of the Future” and as the top ranked “micro city” in North America and Latin America for its foreign direct investment strategy.
“The city itself has a small-town feel but with all the amenities of a larger cosmopolitan area,” Chris Young, Georgia’s chief of protocol, told GlobalAtlanta in an email.
“Accolades were great,” Andrea Feunekes, a co-founder and co-CEO of Remsoft Inc., who co-chaired the conference, said in a telephone interview from Fredericton. Bruce MacLellan, managing director of Market Access International Canada, who along with counterparts in the company’s Atlanta office helped arrange one-on-one meetings, confirmed Ms. Feunekes’ enthusiasm.
“It’s a particularly nice event on the matchmaking side because quality companies attend,” he said. “There is a good feeling about it and the conference has grown every year since it began.”
The conference was launched in 2007 in Montreal with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest, taking the lead and convincing the leadership of five other Southeastern state and six other provinces to join them.
At the same time, they insisted that it would not become an annual meeting for government officials, but rather an opportunity for businesspeople to seek out opportunities.
“The ultimate goal of the alliance was always business,” said Mr. Young, who has attended each of the conferences. “The presence of the political leaders – the governors and premiers or their high-level designees – was intended to serve as a catalyzing agent, encouraging businesses to come and forge partnerships, make deals and explore opportunities.”
Since its start in Montreal, the conference has rotated from venues in the U.S. and Canada each year. From Montreal, it went to Savannah, then to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and on to Biloxi, Miss., last year. It is to be held in Myrtle Beach, S.C., next year.
This year’s conference, held from June 12-14, targeted advanced manufacturing, information and communication technologies and clean tech industrial sectors.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was the only governor to attend from the Southeast this year. But the premiers of New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia were there. Heads of different ministries and departments of economic development from the other participating states and provinces were present in the absence of their governor or premier.
Ms. Feunekes pointed to more than 350 one-on-one business meetings as proof that the conference amounted to more than a political confab.
Fredericton has been able to attract business due to its decision to install a citywide, state-of-the-art broadband network in the early 1990s, she said.
Because of the city’s global connectivity, Ms. Feunekes felt confident about setting up her company, Remsoft Inc., in Fredericton and moved there from Montreal.
The company, which develops software to maximize the management of forests and other resources, now has operations around the world and is expanding its software applications to assist in the management of a wide range of industries.
John Reid, president of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, elaborated on the importance of connectivity provided by information technology during his formal remarks at the conference.
He described his organization’s research showing that the tighter the social and technology networks are within a community, the faster its rate of innovation.
The alliance is implementing with IBM Canada Ltd. an “intelligent communities” initiative that will provide towns and cities throughout Canada access to global information networks.
To illustrate the success of a Fredericton-born company, Gerry Pond, the chairman of Radian6, a social media monitoring company founded in 2006, described its acquisition by Salesforce.com.
Salesforce.com, which is headquartered in San Francisco and has offices in Asia and Europe, is a cloud computing company that has agreed to acquire Radian6 for $326 million, paying $276 million in cash and $50 million in stock.
Radian6’s technology tracks what is being said about a company’s brands, products and competitors over social networks. It does this by capturing hundreds of millions of conversations every day across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs and online communities.
During a town hall meeting held during the conference, the delegates discussed a variety of issues including border security, the environment and energy.
David Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, criticized energy dependence “on countries that don’t like us” and called for a U.S. policy that would import as much energy from Canada as possible.
“I believe we need to do everything we can as a country to promote and facilitate the movement of Canadian energy to the U.S., whether it be a pipeline or hydroelectricity or whatever the form of the energy is,” he said, according to a blog entry on his law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP’s website.
Georgia delegates were pleased by their one-on-one meetings, Kathe Falls, director of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told GlobalAtlanta in an email.
Among the companies participating in the meetings, she cited Northrop Grumman Corp., Vector Aerospace Corp., Irving Oil Ltd., Bell Aliant Inc. and Apex Industries Inc.
Ms. Falls added that the four Atlantic Canada provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador had committed to sending a trade delegation to Georgia in the first quarter of 2012.
Dianne Zimnavoda, owner of RCF Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of anti-vibrating parts for aircraft, confirmed the effectiveness of the one-on-one meetings during a telephone interview with GlobalAtlanta.
Ms. Zimnavoda, whose company is based in Vidalia, was on her way to meet with officials of Northrop Grumman in Montreal when she was interviewed. Her Montreal trip was a direct result of one of the meetings in Fredericton, she said.
Tim Evans, vice president, economic development, at the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce who also was a member of the Georgia delegation, said that he was particularly impressed by the medical technologies he saw on the official tour of Fredericton, which included visits to its universities and research centers.