He might be biased, but Matt Cornall sees plenty of reason for Central Alberta companies to look for business partners in the United Kingdom.
An investment attraction officer with Central Alberta: Access Prosperity, Cornall returned to Canada on Wednesday after leading a trade mission to England — his home country. He was accompanied by Darrell Greenman, president and CEO of AGES (Advanced Global Environmental Solutions) Corp. and a director with Vibe Drive; and Garett Cupples, owner of GenTex Oilfield Manufacturing Inc.
The trio spent most of their time at Sheffield, in Northern England, where they met with representatives of U.K. companies and attended the 2014 Global Manufacturing Festival. They also visited the Canadian High Commission in London.
“The mission went fantastically well,” said Cornall.
Economic development officials from Sheffield and representatives of HSBC bank arranged a special program for the Albertans, he said, and a commercial officer from Alberta’s U.K. office also offered support.
“Companies were able to get really valuable one-on-one meetings and factory tours with guys who they’ll genuinely have the potential to do business with,” said Cornall.
Greenman was pleased with his experience in England.
“I met some incredible people and I do believe there are going to be some great things happen between a couple of our groups.”
The U.K. may not be top of mind for many Canadian companies that are looking overseas. But Cornall thinks the choice makes good sense.
“When you actually sit down and look at the business connections and potential, they’re huge,” he said, describing Alberta’s need for U.K.’s advanced manufacturing capabilities and the U.K.’s need for Alberta’s oil and gas technology and expertise.
“That potential collaboration is huge.”
Plus, continued Cornall, the two countries share a common language, have similar cultures and legal systems, and are poised for liberalized trade opportunities under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. The U.K. is also seven hours closer than China, he added.
“To me, it’s almost a no-brainer.”
Greenman confirmed that dealing with U.K. companies proved “extremely simple,” and acknowledged the importance of being open-minded when looking for trade partners.
He’s travelled and looked for foreign business opportunities in the past, but said the process was much easier when it was organized like the Access Prosperity mission was.
Cornall thinks the number of local companies that took part was low because people here are so busy. But such a commitment is important to ensure future business development, he said.
Greeman said he’s extremely busy in his businesses, but recognized the value of the mission.
“I don’t like to close the door on potential opportunities, so I made the call to go for it — and I’m really glad I did.
“There’s a whole other world out there.”
Cornall is hopeful Access Prosperity will organize a similar trip in the future, perhaps in conjunction with next year’s Global Manufacturing Festival at Sheffield.