February 05, 2009

A Way To Bring The World To Albany

By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union


ALBANY - Foreign trade representatives are here this week to drum up business with the Capital Region at a crucial time.

They're attending a two-day event, which ends today, that was organized by Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm.

It comes as the state's economy is being hammered by layoffs and a drastic drop in tax revenue, forcing government leaders to make difficult decisions on programs and services. The Capital Region is also suffering, with job losses in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors.

"This is the opportunity for us to bring the world to Albany and Albany companies," said Sam Natapoff, Gov. David Paterson's senior adviser on international commerce and development. "All Albany needs is a chance to compete."

Leading the group - which included representatives from 30 countries - was Hlynur Gudjonsson, Iceland's trade commissioner for North America.

Iceland has been devastated by the global banking crisis, and Gudjonsson said efforts aimed at getting trade going again - no matter how small - will help stimulate the world's economy.

"It's networking; that's the goal," he said. "We need the wheels going again for all economies."

The trade reps, most of whom work out of New York state, began the trip Wednesday morning with a reception with Paterson at the Governor's Mansion.

"He (Paterson) said that what people want in this world is jobs, some personal economic security, and peace in their lives," said Patrick Hooker, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Census Bureau data released this month show that U.S. exports totaled $1.71 trillion between January and November last year. That's actually up from the same period in 2007, when exports were $1.49 trillion.

The trade group was expected to spend time visiting the region's high-tech centers, including the University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, and General Electric Co.'s Global Research Center in Niskayuna.

Events included a tour of UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Tuesday night, along with a dinner and reception at the NanoCollege with 120 local business leaders.

The visiting representatives paid their own way, said ESDC spokeswoman Katie Krawczyk.

The high-tech stops were especially interesting to Nathalie Bechamp and Margaret Lange, representatives from Canada. Neither had previously visited the $4.5 billion Albany NanoTech complex that houses the NanoCollege.

"High tech is an area that can benefit companies on both sides of the border," Bechamp said. "We want to foster cooperation and collaboration."