In Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones tells a broke farmer if he builds a baseball diamond, “people will come.” The next scene is cars lined up to see baseball played in an Iowa cornfield. That’s Hollywood.
Building Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Los Angeles will not follow a Hollywood script. President Erik Steigen and the board know that. On Aug. 2, NACC Los Angeles Chapter, Inc. was incorporated in the State of California. On Sept. 20, the NACC Board of Directors voted unanimously on affiliation. LA becomes the ninth chapter and first since Philadelphia in 2013.
“We are starting from scratch,” said Steigen. “We didn’t get any funding to start up this chapter. None of us are getting paid. We literally just started our membership drive. We focused on getting the infrastructures in place: social media accounts, website, a newsletter, bringing on board sponsors. To date, we’ve brought on board three sponsors, helping us establish some basic funding for activities, startup costs, and ongoing expenses. We hope to be able to generate some enthusiasm.”
“The NACC headquarters in New York joins the other NACC chapters in welcoming the NACC Los Angeles Chapter,” says NACC President Cameron Beard. “We are very pleased with the new chapter’s activities to date. Erik Steigen and his group are doing a great job in reaching out to the increasingly large and diverse community of Norwegian and Norwegian-American businesses in Southern California. We will continue to support them as they move forward with this exciting new venture.”
The sponsors are Pacific Western Bank, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, law firm, and R.D. Olson Development.
The task is additionally ambitious because LA is the only chapter in the Golden State.
“Because we are the only one in the state, we figured we should have an outlook that goes beyond Los Angeles,” Steigen said. “For practical purposes, we are concentrating on the greater Los Angeles area and Southern California, from Santa Barbara down to San Diego.
“There are a lot of other Norwegian institutions in San Francisco: the consul general, the Nordic Innovation House, Innovation Norway. Not down here. We’re the only one in terms of Norwegian anyway. That also gives us some advantages. We’ve already seen a collaboration with the consulate and Innovation Norway. When they get contacted by Norwegian businesses and organizations that want to come to LA, they are telling them to contact me.”
Steigen is CEO of USA Media Rights, Inc., and is joined on the board by Asbjørn Egir, adjunct faculty, College of Business Administration, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Dana Michels Gabrielsen, senior manager, contracts, at Service Titan; Audun Poulsen, general manager, Courtyard by Marriott Irvine Spectrum (the top Courtyard in the world), and Erik Rolland, dean and professor, College of Business Administration, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
While Los Angeles being the entertainment capital of the world attracts Norwegians, Steigen writes in one of the newsletters, “our board of directors bring expertise in many other areas including education, travel, and hospitality, all very significant for businesses in California.”
As part of getting the message out, they have tweaked the NACC acronym to represent: “Networking, Alliances, Community, Collaboration,” which Steigen welcomes other chapters to borrow. There are three membership tiers: Student; Associate for individuals; and Entrepreneur for small-business owners and entrepreneurial professionals. As an incentive, those who joined online by Dec. 31 were entered to win one of two weekend stays at the Courtyard by Marriott Irvine Spectrum.
“We’ve already had people signing up,” said Steigen. “We have over 50 people in our LinkedIn group, almost 200 people following us on Instagram, and we’ve got a Facebook group.”
On the one hand, the size of LA would seem fertile ground. On the other, the size creates competing business interests. Like many other chapters, the same industries are not viable in all cities.
“In New York, you have the finance industry, big banks, the Norwegian Oil Fund, other big industrial companies,” said Steigen. “Houston has oil. From my perspective, you have a much more corporate structure in terms of membership. Out here, you have a lot more individuals, people pursuing a career in entertainment, musicians, actors, models. There’s a lot of film production companies that may be Norwegian, smaller companies, then individuals, who are potential members for us.
“People who have been here a while have built their own networks. We have to try different things. If we don’t get a good response from the people we know are here, we’ll focus more on what can we do for Norwegian entrepreneurs who want to come to LA.”
In January, there will be a panel on using social media to build your brand, and a joint program with the Finnish consulate, the Swedish Chamber, and a Danish organization, Nordic LA, about music and leadership.
“I’ve met with Norwegians out here to see what they think is needed and what people respond to,” said Steigen. “You have to give people something that can be helpful to them. We don’t always have to have Norwegians featured at our events because that is not necessarily going to help you in your business pursuits. We’re going to need to find some balance. For Norwegian companies that come here, we can help them with business connections and referrals. We want to be a resource for people.
“I have an interest in this because I think it’s a shame there hasn’t been a viable chapter here. There’s a lot of potential. It’s exciting to become more aware of what’s going on out here. We are already seeing that American businesses are excited about the idea of a Norwegian-American Chamber and see the value of getting some attention in this community for future business. If we have events that create value for individuals or for small businesses, then I think they will come.”
A chamber of their dreams.
Source: Norwegian American