Canadian, US officials talk trade in Myrtle Beach

Most Canadians who visit the Grand Strand are here to vacation, but this week, high powered executives from north of the border have come to Myrtle Beach to talk business.

More than 300 Canadian and American government and business leaders are talking trade and manufacturing at the 5th annual conference of the Southeastern United States - Canadian Provinces Alliance.

The trade alliance was formed in 2007. This is the first time it has held a conference in Myrtle Beach.

The meeting gives representatives from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee a chance to showcase what they can offer Canadian companies that may be looking to build or expand in the U.S.

"South Carolina is a great state to do business because the cost of doing business is low, the trained work force is getting better by the day and we're one of the lowest unionized states in the country," said South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Haley said Quebec is active in aeronautics and several other provinces have auto parts suppliers, so those companies may find South Carolina a good fit for expansion.

Gary Doer, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., said many Canadian companies may be interested in the Southeast, because they want to build their facilities closer to their American customers.

"So I say to the Southern businesses, don't neglect your potential largest market, and to Canadian businesses, don't neglect an opportunity to cut a deal with really, really good can-do companies here in the South," Doer said.

While there will be plenty of speeches at the conference, many officials say what works at this kind of meeting is making personal connections that can help get deals done.

"It's a very warm, friendly, no-pressure environment where you can have those kind of conversations easily and it just works well for us and for them. They get to meet us as well," said Debbie Johnston, a public affairs representative with Resolute Forest Products, a Montreal-based paper and wood products manufacturer that owns a paper mill in Catawba, SC.

Doer said longtime game show host Monty Hall is Canadian, so "Let's Make a Deal" is part of Canada's culture.