College explores trade possibilities with Canada

Four SUNY Oswego faculty members and the college’s Center for Business and Community Development are studying ways to promote trade with Canada through the Port of Oswego.

“Canada and the United States are the biggest trading partners in the world,” said Dr. Said Atri, professor of economics. “In 2004, over 23 percent of New York exports went to Canada, and about 8 percent of Canadian exports came to New York. The Port of Oswego’s share of this trade is small,” he said. “We feel that it might be possible to get a bigger share of this trade if there is adequate investment in the port and promotion among businesses in New York and Canada.”

Atri, Larry Perras of the Center for Business and Community Development and three professors from Oswego’s School of Business—Dr. Dean Crawford, Dr. Ian Cuthill and Dr. Sarfraz Mian—began their study in late June after the Oswego County Legislature approved the $30,000 project. They are scheduled to deliver their findings later this fall.

“This is going to be a major study. We are not cutting any corners,” Atri said in August, soon after the team sent out a survey to New York state businesses that do business with Canada.

Nancy Bellow, director of the Center for Business and Community Development, is coordinating the project with the County of Oswego.

“The Port of Oswego is a tremendous asset to Oswego and Central New York,” she said. “The shipment of the windmill parts through the Port of Oswego is just one example of its huge potential.”

Historically, waterways played a larger role in transportation and trade than they have since railways and highways came to the fore. Atri noted that there may be an opportunity for shipping to make a comeback since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the security measures that followed.

“Truck trafficking has been affected very much because of the wait at the border,” Atri said. Lake Ontario and its associated waterways offer an alternative mode of transporting goods, he said.

If the port became more of a factor in international trade, he said, it could mean a lot for the economic development of the area, which has lagged behind the state overall in the current economic recovery.

“The world is changing around us,” Mian noted. “This area has rich potential, and our community is resourceful. We have to be competitive and create more activity in terms of tourism and trade for business growth and new job creation. We should look for more opportunities such as the windmill parts shipments and look to our neighbors across Lake Ontario for some of those opportunities.”

Among the questions Atri said he and his colleagues are asking in the study are “What can Oswego County do to increase the business without major investments?” and, assuming investments are an option, “What is the possibility of developing the Port of Oswego into a larger capacity port to handle different types of cargo?”

The team’s answers to those questions will be in their final report. “My hope is that the report will assist the county, the Port of Oswego Authority and other economic development agencies in finding new opportunities for trade with Canada,” Atri said.

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(Posted: Aug 31, 2005)