Few world markets are more ripe for the picking than Russia. But fewer are harder to approach.
To help companies get through the bureaucracy, the World Trade Center Assn. of Orange County has secured a $500,000 federal grant for companies that want to start trading with the states of the former Soviet Union.
"It's an exciting opportunity for companies here in Southern California, and I feel it takes this World Trade Center toward the goal of helping companies here in our . . . access to overseas markets," said Marilyn Loewy, president of the Irvine-based association.
The U.S. Department of Commerce created the grant program specifically to encourage companies that want to do business in the former Soviet Union. Nonprofit organizations such as the World Trade Center Assn. will advertise, conduct trade seminars, cut red tape and perform other functions to encourage trade with the newly independent republics.
The Orange County association will have to come up with about $3 million in matching funds and in-kind services. Jay DeLong, the group's director of development, said the grant is viewed as seed money to get the association more involved in the Russian market.
"If it's successful, members of the consortium would be willing to put up some of their money," he said, and continue the project. The grant is important because few companies would be willing to spend money to start exporting to Russia without knowing whether the proposition is feasible.