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Olympics to benefit U.S. and Canada, official says

Aubrey Cohen, The Bellingham Herald, December 9, 2004 

The 2010 Winter Olympics will be a boon for businesses on both sides of the border, a British Columbia official said at a business conference in Bellingham Wednesday.

"It'll be big enough that all of us will end up with opportunities," said Gordon Goodman, executive director of Legacy Initiatives for 2010 LegaciesNow. "It'll bring us all together and it's all about business."

LegaciesNow is a provincial organization working to ensure lasting benefits from the games, which include the Olympics from Feb. 12 to 28, 2010, followed by the Paralympics from March 12 to 21. Goodman was the keynote speaker at a cross-border business conference hosted by the Pacific Corridor Enterprise Council and the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Spending millions

The Olympics organizing committee plans to spend $500 million on venues and another $1.5 million running the games, Goodman said. There also will be a $535 million convention center, about $1.7 billion in rapid transit improvements and about $2 billion in highway expansion. Information about all of this is at www.2010commercecenter.com .

Robert Jones, consul for Commercial Affairs at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, said small local companies could improve their odds of getting Olympic-related business by joining forces with others across the border.

'Fire sale'

Jones also said the declining U.S. dollar has created a "fire sale" for Canadian companies interested in buying U.S. goods and services. He said the consulate has several programs to promote cross-border business.

Jim Pettinger, president of the cross-border business International Market Access Inc., talked about post-9/11 security concerns.

"Whether we like it or not, a wall of security is being built around the United States," Pettinger said. Those who want Canada to be inside that wall need to work to make that happen, he said.

Bellingham immigration lawyer Greg Boos noted a number of security-related concerns, including a new program to fingerprint foreigners entering the United States. Canadians are exempted for now, but some want to change that, Boos said.

Plans call for expanding this to check people as they are leaving the United States, Boos said. This would cost billions, may not work and could bring a "perfect storm," where government is trying to work out the bugs during the 2010 Olympics, Boos said.

Jasper MacSlarrow - Bellingham representative of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens - noted that Larsen proposed legislation to make federal officials write a plan for dealing with Olympic border traffic. Larsen is co-chairman of the state 2010 Olympics task force.

Reach Aubrey Cohen at aubrey.cohen@bellinghamherald.com or 715-2289.