Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC)
Posted on July 22, 2005
By Laura Youngs
Crossing both cultural and economic borders, Russian visitors gathered in Charlotte on a steamy Thursday morning to learn the inner workings of American small business and gain insight into developing an evolving economy. The N.C. Chapter of the Small Business Administration and SCORE, an arm of SBA, spent almost three hours describing - through a translator - how the organization works and how it helps small businesses with guaranteed loans and disaster relief.
Henry Cranford, former chairman for the Charlotte chapter of SCORE, said after the presentation that it's important to assist a country transitioning from authoritarianism to free markets.
"This is our job, to give advice ... be it people here or people from a foreign country," said the former Duke Power executive, who also is a member of Friendship Force of Charlotte, which coordinated the trip.
The meeting fell in the middle of a jam-packed week for the delegates, which included visits to Merrill Lynch, UNC Charlotte and Wachovia, as well as shopping and dinner parties with host families.
Konstantin Slastnikov, chief engineer for the IT security division of the Bank of Russia's Omsk office, said he was amazed to see businesses not only centered on profit, but also on helping society. Speaking through a translator, he added that the exchange helped people break down borders and learn from one another.
"In modern times, it's impossible to live in isolation," he said. "The consequences can be very negative."
The congressionally funded program is in its third year, said John McKeel, treasurer of Friendship Force. Participants apply for the program and must get final approval from the U.S. Embassy in Russia. They arrived Saturday and will leave this Sunday.
Galina Nikonova, president of a Russian tax-advice firm, said she will use what she has learned both as a professor and a small business adviser.
Vladimir Matveev, deputy director general for a Russian broadcasting company, said he visited the United States 10 years ago as part of a business television program. From there, he opened three regional broadcasting firms.
Matveev said Russia is economically behind and the trip has given him ideas he can take back.
"It allows us to have a look at our future."
Republished with permission of The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.
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