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California dreaming: real benefits for Canada

By Brigitte Audet Martin

Canadian companies that may have cast their dreams of California aside because the state is too far and too competitive ought to go try out—especially since it has recently become the world’s fifth largest economy and is brimming with opportunities.

The state’s economy is so large that the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) treats the northern part of the state and the southern part as two separate markets, explains Krista Eisan, a trade commissioner based in Los Angeles who covers the clean technologies sector for the south.

Southern California is well‑known as the entertainment capital of the world with a multitude of roles for Canadians there and in related fields such as digital media and arts and culture. The region also boasts many robust industries, namely environmental technology, life sciences—including bio‑technology and medical devices and research, information and communications technologies (ICT), infrastructure and aerospace and defense. For companies looking for an “agent”, the TCS is ready to help.

“Take a really good look at the opportunities here—it’s a humungous market for many things that Canadians do well, and Canadians have a good reputation here,” Eisan says. “California is not always top of mind-especially for those companies in Eastern Canada, but really, it should be.”

New data released by the United States government in May 2018 indicates California’s gross domestic product (GDP) went up by US$127 billion from 2016 to 2017, surpassing US$2.7 trillion. That puts the state ahead of the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest economy. The state has a population of nearly 40 million. Canada sells more to California alone, than to all of China.

The TCS can provide market intelligence and insight into specifics opportunities in the region, make introductions and help Canadian companies connect with the right contacts, and help with various other aspects of entering the market and finding success. Sometimes that can mean just making sure Canada is top of mind, Eisan says. She adds that her colleague Mohammad Kondri, who focuses on life sciences recently brought representatives from the California‑based Amgen Inc.—one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies—both to Vancouver and to Atlantic Canada to see what Canadian companies have to offer.

The TCS has four offices in California including the Canadian Consulate General in Los Angeles—where 11 of 60 employees focus on trade—as well as the Consulate in San Diego in the south, the Consulate General in San Francisco and the Consulate in Palo Alto in the north. The northern region is a well‑known telecommunications hub, and home to the famous Silicon Valley, while the middle Central Valley region is largely agricultural.

“This is one of the most advanced markets in the world. It’s a very innovative, fast-moving, competitive market and there’s a high‑level expectation for quality. Companies wanting to do business here have to recognize that they will face stiff competition. You have to be able to demonstrate that you have a proven product or technology,” Eisan cautions, adding that’s where the TCS and its network of contact—including provincial offices in the region—can really make a difference.

“In areas like cleantech Cali is one of the most progressive places in the world, a lot of disruptive clean technologies come from this market and there’s a big appetite for environmental technologies,” she says. Canada’s largest foreign competitors in Southern California are Mexico and Asian countries including China. However she adds that Canada has an advantage in several areas, including cleantech. There are many affinities with Canadian business partners‑especially along the west coast, up to Vancouver, she says.

Southern California is home to more than 500 Canadian companies, and has a large Canadian ex‑pat community, she says, adding opportunities keep growing. For example, Southern California needs to import water, and that is creating new opportunities in infrastructure and water technologies industries, Eisan adds.

Her advice: “Visit the market. Come see us, talk to us (the TCS)—it’s really not that far away, even if you’re from the east coast.”

View additional CanadExport magazine articles pertaining to California including: California beckons women in technology and Canada’s digital talent a hit in Hollywood.

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