BORDER Jan, 27, 2008, Bellingham Herald
Locals help Canadian firms expand into U.S.
IMA's services range from local addresses to warehousing
DWYER THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Pettinger is president of International Market Access in Bellingham. The
company helps warehouse and ship goods from Canadian companies. "We cater
to people who are in niche markets," Pettinger said.
INTERNATIONAL MARKET ACCESS
Company president: Jim Pettinger.
What they do: Provide to Canadian businesses a U.S. business identity
and a variety of services to help get products to U.S. customers. Those include
shipping, warehousing, technical repair, foreign trade zone assistance and
The company's 20,000- square-foot warehouse stores a variety of products.
"We're basically a boutique business that helps Canadian companies with the
back-end work, so they can focus on marketing themselves to the U.S. market,"
Seminars: Founded in 1997, "Doing Business in the USA" is a program
that's been used to help Canadians learn what they need to do to enter the U.S.
market. Current presenters are Pettinger, Greg Boos (immigration attorney), Max
Legg (partner, Moss Adams LLP), Gene Moses (business attorney) and Bill Murphy
(sales representative for UPS).
More information: www.ucantrade.com.
- In his line of work, Jim Pettinger enjoys watching entrepreneurs succeed,
even if it means losing a customer.
has been operating International Market Access for 25 years. The firm helps
Canadian companies enter the U.S. market by establishing a business identity
company, located on foreign trade zone property near Bellingham International
Airport, could provide nothing more than a mailing address to help a Canadian
firm get established. Or it could provide warehouse space, or even do repairs
on returned items.
the Canadian firms do well in the U.S. market, the next step might be
establishing a facility or being bought by another firm. Either way, they've
made it and no longer require IMA's services.
the client changes, we lose a few, but we gain others," said Pettinger, noting
that IMA currently handles about 125 companies. "What I enjoy about this
business is working with entrepreneurs, seeing them willing to take a chance
along with four other local business people, have hosted "Doing Business in the
USA" seminars in British Columbia for more than 10 years.
that time, Pettinger said he has noticed more B.C. businesses becoming
interested in the U.S. market and getting established in Whatcom County.
took some time to answer questions about the trends he's noticed, particularly
with the stronger Canadian dollar.
are you seeing these days when it comes to B.C. companies
investing in Whatcom County?
the business level, British Columbia and Whatcom County are getting closer than
ever, and I see that continuing. You can see it happening now, whether it is
establishing a business identity here (at International Market Access) or all
the buildings that are appearing in business parks along Interstate 5, such as
the Grandview and COPAC (business parks).
businesses that get established here in Whatcom County will start off as small
operations, but it is a great opportunity for this area if they are successful
in the U.S. market. Not only will they grow here and add employees, but they'll
use other business services, such as accountants.
are the biggest factors for this change?
are a couple of trends taking place. One is the maturation of B.C. businesses.
About 20 years ago there were a lot of businesses, particularly in the
technology industry, that were just getting started. Those companies have now
have become large enough that they are able to look at new markets to expand
are also family businesses that were started years ago by people who immigrated
to B.C. from the Pacific Rim and are turning it over to their children, and
they are looking at the U.S. market. As they look to expand, they look at
Whatcom County because it's so close.
problems or challenges do you see?
I see being hurt in the coming years is the local tourism and hospitality
industries, unless there are changes to the border. We need something
consistent at the border that can be easily obtained by travelers, such as a
people are pragmatic; they'll do whatever is needed to make sure they can get
across the border. But for a Canadian who wants to go skiing at Mount Baker or
a Whatcom County resident who wants to eat dinner at White Rock, getting hung
up at the border is a problem that they'll tell five other friends about.
about for businesses trying to enter the U.S. market?
biggest problem I see for these businesses is dealing with the size of the U.S.
market. The key for many of these businesses is to do niche marketing - they
probably won't do well selling to the Wal-Marts, but they can do better with
mid-size companies that are looking for unique products.
they can come down here and get their product in a store like Hardware Sales or
Yeager's, it's a good starting point.
also have the advantage of working with the business. . the owner can drive
down here to deal with any problems.
impact has the strong Canadian dollar had?
the Canadian dollar was weak, Canadian businesses wanted to sell here for the
American dollar. With the strong Canadian dollar, companies are sharpening
their pencils and figuring out ways to outsource more to keep their currency.
we first started, many Canadian companies tried to take advantage of the U.S.
dollar and ride that strength.
Canadian companies are more apt to establish themselves when they are ready to
expand into the U.S. market and not worry as much about the currency.
advantage for the companies is they can buy real estate at a discount, so
you're seeing more investment in Whatcom County.
should Whatcom County be doing to further encourage
business investment from British Columbia?
County should think of itself as an incubator county. That's the way this area
should be marketed.
There are already many small
companies in this area that are primed for growth, and we should encourage it.
That's much easier than trying to get a large company to relocate here.
Dave Gallagher at 715-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.