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Event promotes “mega-region” as workable trade zone

Buffalo businesses willing to widen their horizons beyond Western New York are in a good spot geographically.

First is the opportunity just across the border, in Southern Ontario through Hamilton and Toronto. But thinking even bigger, Buffalo sits in the midst of a Great Lakes “mega-region,” stretching as far west as Green Bay, Wisc., and east through parts of Ontario and Quebec.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is hosting “Unleashing the Power of the Mega-Region” on Thursday, an event aimed at getting businesses from both sides of the border to consider the breadth of trade potential in that territory.

“What we are trying to talk about at our event is using the region between Buffalo and Toronto to really take advantage of that larger Great Lakes region,” said Catherine Muth, manager of CanAm and government affairs for the Partnership.

Some businesses – be they Canadian or American – might be considering taking that first step across the border, she said. Others may already conduct cross-border trade, but haven’t explored the possibilities of the “mega-region” encompassing more than 55 million people.

Organizers want to identify what holds business back from cross-border trade, and help them overcome those obstacles, Muth said. The reasons might vary by industry, from bridge traffic tie-ups to regulatory barriers for workers.

“I think a lot of times in your head you think, ‘Why should I even attempt to enter that market when I have other ways to expand my business here?’” Muth said. “Our want and hope is that we can dispel some of those thoughts and really just connect the people so they have the right connections to build their business.”

Event organizers will try to tackle those concerns in a variety of ways. Registrants will be surveyed in advance, and results will be shared at the event. And organizers will prepare a white paper on key issues, such as immigration laws affecting employees, that come up during the event, with recommended solutions.

The keynote speaker will be Nadja Piatka, CEO of Nadja Foods. Her business is based in Buffalo and supplies food products to restaurant chains and retailers in the United States and Canada.

About 180 people from both sides of the border have registered for the event at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls. About 200 to 250 people are expected. More information is available at