Rep. Courtney leads mission to boost local economic ties to U.K.

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Statewide - posted Thu., Apr. 21, 2011
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney meets with business leaders at BNL Industries in Vernon on March 23, to mark the official launch of the mission to the United Kingdom. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) is visiting the United Kingdom, hoping to bring back with him some connections that will boost the economic future for aerospace and military technology companies, as well as tourism, in eastern Connecticut.

Courtney announced the trade mission in late March, and embarked on April 18 with 15 Connecticut companies, including BNL industries of Vernon, which makes valves for submarines and surface ships.

"What is important to BNL is to be able to compete in the global economy," said BNL General Manager Dennis Grogan, in a press release before the trip. "With the support of the congressman and the Export Assistance Center, we feel privileged to be on the mission and have their help in introducing us to our target market in the U.K."

"Our research strongly indicated that the U.K. is an excellent market for our local companies," said U.S. Department of Commerce District Director Anne Evans. "I am pleased that Congressman Courtney will be leading this mission. Along with the congressman's office, we have been able to schedule meetings with major U.K. companies that could result in significant sales for the trade mission participants."

In a conference call with members of the press on April 19, Courtney said the trip, so far, has been positive.

“The feeling among the group that's here is extremely positive,” Courtney said, “in terms of trying to understand trends that are afoot in the British economy trade rules.”

“We've had meetings with some of the large defense companies here in the U.K.,” Courtney said, adding that the contingent had already met with BAE Systems, the British Ministry of defense, EADS Global, and the Lockheed-Martin affiliate for the U.K.

“The goal here is a pro-growth agenda,” Courtney said, adding that the effort is part of President Obama's export initiative, which seeks to double U.S. exports by 2020.

“Connecticuthas been a strong force of activity [in that effort],” Courtney said.

Courtney said BNL has made good connections, including with BAE and Lockheed-Martin.

On April 19, BNL went to Portsmouth, England – a large British naval hub – to talk with more BAE representatives about opportunities for the exporting of valves that are commonly used on U.S. naval ships.

“We're excited for them,” Courtney said, “that they are going to have that face-to-face meeting. It's really what these trips are all about—getting that face-to-face, personal contact - that e-mail address, that phone number to follow up and then 'get in the queue,' as they say over here, in terms of the procurement process.”

“This is a first,” Evans said. “Our Connecticut companies are getting invited to the European and U.K. supplier fairs - something that's never happened before.”

Bringing more British tourists to Connecticut is also part of the mission.

“It's to get Connecticut... in the minds of tour operators here in the U.K.,” Courtney said, “who definitely are in the neighborhood, with flights coming into Newark and New York, but who don't have our region on their radar screen.”

Peter Glankoff from Mystic Aquarium (an eastern Connecticut tourism promotion agency) was part of the mission's tourism initiative.

“Those of us in eastern Connecticut have been aware of interest in New England in general,” Glankoff said, “on the part of the folks from the U.K. The U.K. has been a significant source of visitors to Connecticut. On the other hand, it's also very important to be receptive and reach out to these folks.”

Glankoff said a delegation from China will also be visiting Connecticut in May.

“This trade mission is a perfect example of that kind of outreach,” Glankoff said. “We have made some excellent contacts. We have lots of new ideas. What we're really doing now is we're building for the near future. If you look around the world and you look at countries that are really capitalizing on their tourism assets, you'll see that they invest in tourism - they reach out and travel.”

Evans added that the mission is sponsored through the export council, which is a non-profit group, and not through taxpayer funds.

“It does work,” Evans said, “and that's the exciting part. This is how we attract tourism into Connecticut. We've had a really good couple of days.”

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