CSCC November 3, 2014 Public Meeting
The meeting was organized with the purpose of presenting the latest developments within the Slovenian business community and the opportunities within the framework of re-connecting Slovenia, United States and Canada.
Joe Cestnik chaired the meeting, which was well attended by almost 100 people at Treport Banquet Centre in Mississauga.
The meeting included several guest speakers; Dr Stanko Rascan Director General for the Economic Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia; Dr. Marjan Cencen, Slovenia’s Ambassador to Canada; Jurcek Zmauc, Slovenian Consul General from Cleveland, Ohio and Joseph Kokal, President of the Slovenian American Business Association. In addition, John Doma, Honourary Slovenian Counsel General and Simon Pribac provided attendees with an overview of the various initiatives and events that have transpired over the past year.
The meeting started off with a celebration of recognition as Mr. Marjan Furlan, representing the Association of Veterans of War for Slovenia presented our former Honourary Slovenian Consul General, Mr. Joze Slobodnik a medal of honour acknowledging his support of the Slovenian Veterans Association.
Mr Tony Klemencic officially opened the meeting by discussing the proper protocol for Annual General Meetings (AGM). He noted that the Chamber will provide notice of an annual meeting to be held in January 2015. He also mentioned that significant legislative changes to the administration of Non-Profit Organizations are expected in the upcoming year. He will be available to provide guidance on these changes for attendees during the upcoming Annual General Meeting in 2015.
Dr Marjan Cencen confirmed that the Slovenian government is very supportive of trade between Canadian and Slovenian companies. In addition to his ongoing diplomatic initiatives, he stated that one of his key mandates is to promote trade with small medium sized enterprises between our countries. He referenced the Danish Consul Office who has several full time paid individuals who focus on such enterprises. He highlighted their success in facilitating trade and supporting cultural activities in the GTA region.
Dr Stanko Rascan presented his office’s mandate, acknowledging that they have come to recognize and support trade between North America and Slovenia. He highlighted that Canada and the United States have many successful entrepreneurs of Slovenian descent who not only can facilitate trade but also have benefited financially from trade between our two countries. Dr. Rascan also reinforced that Canadian companies should also consider the Slovenian market as a place to do business.
Simon and I explained various initiatives and meetings over the past year which have generated renewed interest in re-connecting with Slovenia. These include:
- Food and Wine Show – Slovenian Booth highlighting Slovenian wines and food products
- Slovenian Business Delegation – representatives from 16 companies
- The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce
- The Slovenian Business Club representatives visit to Canada
- Slovenian American Business Association visit to Canada
- Meetings with the Slovenian Business Association in Trieste
- Meetings with Slovenian Companies in Slovenia
- Meetings with Slovenian Minister office of Economic Trade
I provided an overview of the catalyst to initiate the November 3rd meeting and the re-launch of our Chamber of Commerce. A group of individuals including Joe Cestnik, Bill Kocjancic, Joe Pust, Mark Kozar, Jure Kacicnik, Simon Pribac and myself have had several meetings throughout this past summer. Our discussion evolved around how we could assist our Slovenian community to grow and prosper. We prepared a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis which confirmed the need to collectively take action. Joe Cestnik felt that the most appropriate vehicle would be for us to consider the revitalization of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce. This would require the permission of the existing directors. Hence the need for the November 3rd meeting.
With the support of the current Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, discussions ensued around the challenges that the community faces and how we could best serve the community given everyone’s busy day to day schedule and work life balance. Our Slovenian community is blessed with and has been sustained by the efforts of many great volunteers. We acknowledge, however, that communication can be and must be improved. Our community leaders have approached us asking for assistance as attendance at our parks and community events had decreased. With today’s methods of communication which, include the use of email, internet and other social media methods, we should be able to easily communicate with one another. Slovenian businesses have also asked for assistance to promote products in Canada and North America. This will require a significant amount of resources – human, financial and time investments, as this will mandate the development of a compensated position devoted to attend to the above issues on a fulltime basis.
Agreement has been reached to support, on a one year trial basis, a fulltime position. Through consultation with Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, the Ambassadors office and various Slovenian agencies we have been directed to submit proposals for funding to the Department of Spirit Slovenia and Urad za Slovence po svetu [Government Office for Slovenians Abroad] In addition, we have several Slovenian companies interested in using our services on a fee for service basis. This will assist our ability to support this compensated position.
The position will initially assist in drafting a directory of individuals and businesses who would be interested in receiving monthly communiques about community and business events and opportunities. Updating the Chamber website will be another requirement of the position. The position will surely evolve as we evaluate the needs of the cultural and business communities. We feel business has always been at the heart of supporting cultural events and all of the work that the members and directors of VSKO and the Niagara Co-ordination Committee perform.
Joseph Kokal president of the Slovenian American Business Association (SABA) explained the United States Model is similar to ours and he looked forward to working with us to promote our initiative in the coming year. He mentioned that SABA will host a conference at Slovenian Cultural Centre in Chicago for American Slovenian Cultural groups and businesses.
The presentation was followed by Robert Tousignant, a representative from Ipros, a Slovenian company, who has engaged his services in Canada as a result of the business mission last year. Peter Pozar, VP of Sales at Ipros took advantage of the last year’s forum to follow up on the relationships they developed.
Martin Krys also extended an invitation for individuals willing to invest in a movie involving a Slovenian story with the hope we would have Canadian Slovenian content.
Sonya Rosenwirth explained her new role at Dom Lipa, including the development of a strategic plan she is currently working on. She also mentioned that she was looking forward to working with the Chamber in 2015.
The Chamber will be hosting presentations including Slovenian wine tasting events throughout the upcoming year to promote interaction and networking between our members.