April 13, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haig Hovsepian
tel: (818) 500-1918

ANCA-WR Welcomes Passage of SB 515 by California Senate Committee

Sacramento, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) welcomed news of the passage of SB 515 through the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. The Senate Committee passed SB 515, which extends the “sunset” of funding for the California Armenia 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 of the former Soviet Union.

Testimony in support of the CATO was provided by Johnnie Nalbandian, Executive Director of the Foundation for Economic Development, Inc. which is the privately-funded sole contractor of the CATO.  Mr. Nalbandian discussed the past, present and future of the CATO and specifically mentioned that the “gateway” that exists between Eastern Europe, Western Asia and California must be cultivated to bring these markets closer together. Mr. Nalbandian also discussed various companies that are interested in pursuing opportunities through the CATO. Specifically, Mr. Nalbandian mentioned feasibility studies that are in the process of being conducted for Cedarlane Natural Foods and Mattel Toys. Marani, which has already begun to work with CATO and can be found in almost 1000 stores, utilized demographic research studies done by the CATO to identify marketing and resale opportunities. Other companies with which the CATO works are Nic Nak clothing, which has agreed to work with an Armenian company to knit children’s clothing to be shipped for the winter season, and Tesco Stores, a United Kingdom-based retail grocery chain which has already contacted the CATO to determine the viability of products that it could import from Armenia.

Also providing testimony in support of the CATO was Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian, who testified on behalf of the Los Angeles – Yerevan Sister City Association. Zerounian-Khanzadian discussed the distinguishing characteristics of the CATO from previous trade offices; namely that 1) it is a contract trade office, 2) it does not receive any state funding, and 3) the authorizing legislation provides accountability provisions. She also noted the stabilizing factors associated with extending the sunset date which include helping interested companies grow in California’s robust economy while strengthening opportunities for California companies to reach out to untapped regions in Eastern Europe, the Caucus region and Western Asia.

After testimony, the Committee passed SB 515 by a vote of 8-0.

“The CATO represents a wonderful opportunity for the State of California to establish viable economic ties to global markets that are not yet saturated,” commented ANCA-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian. “We are happy to see the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee move forward with this measure.”

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.

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Photo Caption: The Foundation for Economic Development, Inc.