New NACC chapter

The Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce opens first new chapter in 11 years in Philadelphia, Penn.

By Michael Kleiner

Philadelphia, Penn.

One may not think of Philadelphia as a haven of Norwegians. Sons of Norway has a chapter, but the Norwegian Sjømannskirken closed in 1982. Scandinavian culture is absorbed in the American Swedish Historical Museum. Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, formerly Kværner Philadelphia Shipyard, has operated since 2000 and is the largest Norwegian investment in the area.

The Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce realizes potential in the Greater Philadelphia region and Pennsylvania. A Philadelphia chapter was officially established at a ceremony on September 25. Frode W. Kjersem, President of NACC Philadelphia, signed the Affiliation Agreement, flanked by Inger M. Tallaksen, General Manager, NACC, and Captain Blaine E. Collins, Director of External Affairs, Den Norske Veritas, and before a room of dignitaries. On September 17, NACC President Ole Chr. Schroder signed the Affiliation Agreement in New York City.

Photo courtesy of Michael Kleiner From left: Inger M. Tallaksen, General Manager, NACC; Svein Berg, Regional Director, Innovation Norway, N.Y.; Lars Petter Henie, Minister Counselor, Economic Affairs, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Washington, D.C.; Frode W. Kjersem, President, NACC Philadelphia; and Captain Blaine E. Collins, Director of External Affairs, Den Norske Veritas.

Photo courtesy of Michael Kleiner
From left: Inger M. Tallaksen, General Manager, NACC; Svein Berg, Regional Director, Innovation Norway, N.Y.; Lars Petter Henie, Minister Counselor, Economic Affairs, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Washington, D.C.; Frode W. Kjersem, President, NACC Philadelphia; and Captain Blaine E. Collins, Director of External Affairs, Den Norske Veritas.

There were remarks and champagne skåls. Among the hors d’oeuvres was salmon from A Taste of Norway.

“Establishing an NACC chapter is rarer than a Big Foot sighting,” joked Lars Petter Henie, Minister Counselor, Economic Affairs, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington. “NACC was established in 1915, then Chicago 1959, Minneapolis 1968, Seattle 1969, Los Angeles 1971, Houston 1973, Miami 1982, DC 2002 and now Philadelphia 2013. Philadelphia is the right place. Natural gas is popping out everywhere, especially in the United States and will be a big industry in Pennsylvania. Norwegian companies can contribute to this.”

One of the biggest advantages is geographical.

“The Philadelphia chapter will connect the corridors between New York and Washington,” said Tallaksen. “There is so much activity. Norwegians are discovering Philadelphia and more will discover it. The three regions will work well together. Some people may want to be outside New York. They can select Philadelphia.”

Kjersem is managing partner at Nordic Invest and has lived in Philadelphia for 14 years. He had been working with the Honorary Norwegian Consul in Philadelphia and they saw Norwegian business expansion.

“We decided to get businesses together,” said Kjersem. “We were networking with the Swedish Chamber, but when we reached a point of critical mass, we felt this was a great opportunity to create a local NACC chapter. The region is experiencing strong growth in the energy, marine and other manufacturing sectors. Norwegians can lend expertise in technology, the environment, operations and the utilization of natural gas.

“The main objectives are to promote Norwegian-American business opportunities; to serve innovative Norwegian and American companies seeking to expand their bilateral business interests, and to foster a professional network in the Greater Philadelphia region. We will target American businesses, open doors, channels and markets, leverage the national NACC with Pennsylvania businesses and service organizations and partner them with Norwegian businesses to fill a need.”

Svein Berg, Regional Director, Innovation Norway in New York, was making a return trip to the state where he attended Nazareth Senior High School in nearby Lehigh Valley for his senior year over 30 years ago. He found a city that has made a positive transformation. In his role, he has realized that, “When companies work together they can be more successful than working alone. They employ more people. Philadelphia is about bringing people together.”

Berg said to understand NACC one must also understand the history of Norway.

“If it was not for seafood, we would not have become an individual nation,” said Berg. “There would be no Norway and no NACC. Norway exports seafood to 150 countries with a value of $10 billion a year. If it wasn’t for seafood, we would be EU members negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States. We export 38,000,000 dinners every day. If it wasn’t for exporting seafood, Norwegians would be eating 1,600 pounds of seafood a year.”

A major interest is the Marcellus Shale natural gas development, an area covering an estimated 95,000 square miles around Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. Statoil has been involved there since 2008. It is a controversial issue due to the fracking process, believed to be environmentally unsafe. DNV was due to attend the Shale Insight Conference in Philadelphia the following day.

“DNV can provide the expertise in developing Marcellus Shale in a safe way,” said Kjersem.

“The Shale Conference is an important event for us,” says Collins. “DNV could contribute in a number of ways, such as our Recommended Practice for Shale Development, our expertise in pipeline safety and our work in the development of natural gas as a fuel for ships.”

Collins is confident about the success of the new NACC chapter.

“We (NACC) consider ourselves to be a vibrant and energetic organization that exists to promote business, both ways between the United States and Norway that draws on the cultural diversity of the two countries, the depth of ethical competence and mutual commercial interests. Part of our success is we recognized organizations don’t exist for the organization’s sake. They exist to meet needs of society, businesses, individuals and they fill a necessary need in the local community. NACC has done that quite successfully in their chapters. After meeting the people in Philadelphia, I’m enthusiastic and optimistic NACC will do the same here.”

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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