Sacramento, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) welcomed news of the passage of SB 515 through the California Assembly Jobs and Economic Development Committee. The Assembly Committee passed SB 515, which extends the “sunset” of funding for the California Trade Office (CATO) by 2 years until 2010. The CATO, which opened under the leadership of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and California Senator Jack Scott (D-Pasadena), was administered to stimulate trade between California and the regions of Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union.
Testimony in support of the CATO was provided by Johnny Nalbandian, CATO Trade Specialist and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Economic Development, Inc., which is the privately-funded sole contractor of the CATO, and Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian, Chairwoman of the Los Angeles – Yerevan Sister City Association (LAYSCA).
During testimony, Nalbandian discussed the operation of the CATO going forward, the 1500% increase in CATO’s website traffic in the past year (www.armenia.ca.gov), and the progress in working with companies such as Marani Spirits which now distributes through chains like Safeway, Ralphs and California Pizza Kitchen. Additionally, Nalbandian explained that the CATO is working with California companies such as Hard Rock Café, Nic-Nak Clothing, Coffee Bean and Tea, Mattel and a pharmaceutical company that is exploring the feasibility of constructing a specialized facility in Armenia. Nalbandian also informed the Assembly Committee of simultaneous Town Hall meetings to be conducted in November in Los Angeles and Yerevan. These meetings would provide an opportunity for local and regional businesses to learn more about CATO’s work and outreach to promote economic growth between California and the NIS. The Town Hall meetings will precede a Trade Expo and Conference featuring companies from all over California and the NIS that will take place in the spring of 2008. Finally, Nalbandian mentioned the possibility of establishing, through an Armenian carrier, a direct flight between Los Angeles and Yerevan which would offer exciting opportunities for freight and passenger travel between the two cities.
Following Nalbandian, Zerounian-Khanzadian elaborated upon the relationship between the LAYSCA and the CATO. Zerounian-Khanzadian stated that the LAYSCA facilitates relationship building between Los Angeles and Yerevan businesses and helps promote the goals of CATO. Furthermore, LAYSCA and CATO will be working together on securing the direct Los Angeles – Yerevan flight.
After testimony, the Committee passed SB 515 by a vote of 6-0.
“Passage of SB 515 through the Assembly’s Jobs and Economic Development Committee signals another important milestone for California’s economy,” commented ANCA-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian. “The CATO provides a unique opportunity for California companies to discover and engage vast new markets,” he added.
The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
Photo caption #1: California State Senator Jack Scott (center) joined by CATO Trade Specialist and FED Executive Director Johnny Nalbandian and LAYSCA Chairwoman Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian.
Photo caption #2: Nalbandian joins Senator Scott’s Chief of Staff Gail Evans.