Viking: What are the goals of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce?
Peter Russell: The goal is to foster bilateral commercial trades between the United States and Norway. The organization was founded by Norwegian businessmen who settled in the upper Midwest to foster and create relationships between each other and with their suppliers in Norway. Our Midwest chapter covers Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. We have a wide variety of businesses: law firms that focus on international trade, import/export companies, the Sons of Norway and business executives that do mergers and acquisitions.
V: How many members does the NACC have? Who are the members?
PR: Nationally we have about 650 members and 65-70 in the upper Midwest chapter. We want to grow that fairly aggressively. There’s a lot in New York because that’s where a lot of Norwegian corporate headquarters are located. There’s also a lot in Houston, which is an oil capital here in the United States. A lot of Norwegian oil exploration companies and oil related organizations have their U.S. headquarters there. It’s more than networking relationships with Norwegian businesses. Traditionally, it was Norwegian organizations that join to foster interrelationships between their businesses. They celebrate social occasions together. In some areas, it’s very focused on business. There’s a new national strategy that’s underway. We’re seeking to promote more organizational benefits to our members as a whole.
V: Tell me about your role as the President of the NACC’s Upper Midwest and your future goals.
PR: I’ve had my current role since the end of January. I served as vice president for three years. My goal now is to start a concerted outreach programs with chambers of commerce in some of the medium to large cities in Norway to advertise Minneapolis as a great business hub, instead of going to New York, Atlanta or Houston. This is fairly new, but we’re working very closely with the Norwegian counsel general in Minneapolis to put together a packet of information that we can send electronically to potential members in Norway that highlights the upper Midwest as a place with a great standard of living, good education and good infrastructure. We’re also highlighting other Scandinavian businesses that have found a national home here. With the new national projects that are going on, I’m confident that we will become an even more dynamic organization with current discussions on trade relationships and being able to grow businesses bilaterally.
V: What are some of the top reasons people join NACC?
PR: They join because they are interested in exploring business opportunities in Norway. And conversely, there are Norwegian chambers that are interested in foreign opportunities in the U.S. We get contacts from trade delegations in parts of Norway that ask for help in setting up a trade delegation here in the U.S. We want to be the gateway of helping Norwegian businesses do commerce here in the upper Midwest.
V: NACC has partnered with the Sons of Norway website NorwayConnects.org. How will this partnership benefit NACC?
PR: It’s a wonderful thing! It’s a great way for people to become interested in our organization, but also a great way for Norwegian students to learn about all of the educational opportunities and business opportunities here in the U.S., especially where the Sons of Norway has a strong footprint. We’re hoping SON members will join our organization. It’s a great gateway for new membership for us. It makes it easier for Norwegian people to have one portal where they can find information about schools over here, financial aid, immigration issues they may face, visa requirements. Members can post job openings. I think that American business has a lot to gain by hiring Norwegian employees. There are great educational opportunities both here and there.