Prime Minister Dzurinda hopes to be laying many more foundation stones like this one last week for Johnson Controls near Martin.
The mission, which is being organised by the New York non-profit agency Business Council for International Understanding, will be led by US Congressman John Mica (a Republican from Florida). Mica is of Slovak heritage and speaks regularly about Slovak related issues on the floor of Congress.
About 2O US business representatives will be making the trip to Slovakia from August 28 to 31, including officials from companies like AMSLICO, Azurix, Cirrus Resources Inc., Winslow Partners, Raytheon Systems, Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter and Co. and Lanco International.
Eight members of Congress will be coming, including Mica, Collin Peterson (D, MN), Carlos Romero-Barcelo (D, Puerto Rico), Steve LaTourette (R, OH), Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA) Bernard Sanders (Ind., VT), Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) and Maurice Hinchey (D, NY). The goal of the mission is to increase contacts between Slovak and American business, and to prepare the ground for the signing of some contracts between Slovak and American companies.
According to Paul Reynolds, Mica's Special Projects Co-ordinator, "the trade mission will provide an opportunity for representatives of American companies to know something about the business environment and develop relations with domestic [Slovak] companies."
"We are coming because we want to learn something about the Slovak business environment," echoed John Miller, a senior manager with Raytheon Systems, a global leader in defence electronics and complex integrated information systems. According to Miller, Raytheon is interested in meeting Defence Minister Pavol Kanis to explore investment opportunities.
The mission has been in the works since June, when John Mica's colleague Duane Schultz visited Slovakia and travelled around the country meeting Slovak business and regional government officials interested in co-operation with American companies. In Schulz's own words, his job was then "to go home and try to match the needs with the supply." The result is a delegation which, at over 40 members, is the biggest US trade mission to Slovakia ever.
The schedule of the three day visit will allow representatives of American companies to meet Slovak government officials as well as local businessmen. The first opportunity to meet and talk will be during a Sunday evening boat cruise on the Danube, organised by the Slovak-American entrepreneurial fund. Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš have already promised to attend.
The programme will continue on Monday morning with Citibank breakfast and a coffee hour organised by American law firm White and Case at the Danube hotel.
"Our discussions with members of the mission will touch mainly on legislative issues and the legislative environment in connection with running businesses here," said J. Russell McGranahan, a senior attorney with White and Case in Slovakia. "It will be useful for some businessmen to find a firm like White and Case," he added.
According to McGranahan, the fact that such a powerful delegation is visiting Slovakia is definitely good news for the country. "But the hard work will begin only after their departure," he added.
The visitors will then stop off at the Ministry of Economy before attending a reception at the American Embassy and a dinner organised by the American Chamber of Commerce.
The executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce, Leighton Klevana, was also optimistic about the mission. "I expect a lot to come out of the mission and I believe it will be highly successful," he said, adding that the delegation would be taking a close look at the Slovak government and the domestic business sector. "As a result of the visit, I would like to see more relations between American companies and Slovak business groups. I believe that John Mica has been a good friend of Slovakia and will certainly work hard for Slovak interests," he said.
The mission will wrap up in Slovakia on Tuesday August 31, with businessmen arranging individual meetings, before moving on to Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and Ukraine.
According to the Slovak Statistical Office, the US was the third largest foreign investor in Slovakia in 1998 with 9.7 billion crowns ($230 million) in investments, behind Austria and Germany. This year the Economy Ministry expects US investments to be even higher, and to make it the largest foreign investor in Slovakia.