Visiting Russian delegates witness economic development in action

Four Russian business and government leaders toured Clark County businesses, organizations and construction sites

Clark County welcomed a team of Russian business leaders from Sept. 23 through Oct. 1 as part of the Open World program. The program was hosted by the Rotary Club of Lewis River. Open World was created by the U.S. Congress in 1999 and has brought Russian visitors to the county each year since. The program enables emerging Russian and other former Soviet country leaders to experience U.S. democracy and free enterprise in action in communities across America. The focus of this year’s visit was economic development.

The trip began with a weekend of sightseeing around the Columbia River, Portland and several Oregon wineries and Pearson Air Field where Russian aviators landed after the first transpolar flight in 1937. The original group of five was trimmed to four, because one was unable to make the trip due to illness.

During the week, the group of four Russian men ranging in age from 25 to 38 working in business and government explored economic development issues with the many groups and individuals in the community who volunteered to host them, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council, the Port of Vancouver, First Independent Bank in downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, the Vancouver Business Journal, officials from Clark County and Vancouver, Pomeroy Farms north of Battle Ground and Norpak Co. in Longview.

Buck Heidrick, a coordinator for the trip with the Rotary club, said the trip was very successful, as the group showed an interest in all of the planned activities.

“Everything we did was in line with things they could use and apply in Russia,” said Heidrick.

Many unplanned stops were made at commercial, industrial and residential construction sites around the county, as the group had experience in engineering and building design, construction and real estate.

“They wanted to see how things were done in the U.S.,” said Heidrick.

Of particular interest were meetings with the CREDC and county and city officials. They had a lot of questions regarding permitting and the permitting process, said Heidrick. Apparently, the bureaucratic challenges of permitting in Russia make Clark County’s process seem like a walk in the park. Heidrick said the wine tasting and tour of the Columbia by boat were also highlights of the visit.

An observation made by the individuals in the visiting group, noted Heidrick, was their amazement at how much Americans and Russians are alike in their interests, what they care about and style of communication and interaction.