A regular customer

Canada and other NATO countries provide growth markets for TSSi

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Don Wright never uses a deal-or-no-deal ap­­proach when doing business in Canada. “If you get fixated on having to close the deal that day, you may be considered aggressive,” he says. “You have to take the time to make the deal and to develop relationships.”

As international sales manager for Harrisonburg-based TSSi, Wright educates himself on the customs and regulations of various countries around the world. “We are actively selling to 40 countries,” he says. “Canada has been one of our best customers.”

TSSi sells tactical and specialized operational equipment to the U.S. Department of Defense, law enforcement and disaster recovery professionals. “We have good relations with a lot of government agencies through military and law enforcement,” Wright says. “The U.S. and Canada share a close alliance through military peacekeeping operations. A lot of U.S. companies are doing business in Canada.”

The company got involved in the international market in 1994 when it worked with an exclusive group in the United Arab Emirates. “It was a learning curve,” says President and CEO Bill Strang. “We got involved with the Virginia AIM [Accessing International Markets] export program and were able to land business in Poland and the Czech Republic. We set up distribution in Poland.”

France and Brazil are now growing markets for TSSi. “Brazil has agreed to invest in military upgrades and improvements to their infrastructure because of the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016,” Wright says. “The luxury we have is to tactically focus on countries with the best growth potential.”

Currently, international sales represent a low percentage of the company’s overall sales, but that area of the business is growing. “We often focus on countries in NATO and also recognize emerging markets such as India, which is a big market for us to break into,” Wright says, adding that export compliance regulations in foreign countries are a growing concern. “American businesses are held to higher regulatory restraints than other countries around the world. It requires a much greater knowledge of export compliance regulations. Europe is a good market because they understand how we do business.”

TSSi has been selling products to the Canada Department of National Defense for about 15 years. In early 2010 the company landed a contract of about $1 million with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan.

Wright enjoys traveling to Ottawa in February during the city’s Winterlude Festival. “They have a huge ice sculpture at Parliament and also ice skating,” he says. “Ottawa is a unique place with lots of small mom-and-pop stores throughout the older area and downtown.”

Ottawa is the seat of Canada’s federal government. One of its most visited attractions is Parliament Hill, which overlooks the Ottawa River. During summer mornings, visitors can watch the daily Changing the Guard ceremony. Known for its festivals, Ottawa holds more than 45 major events each year that include the world’s largest chamber music festival. Favored attractions include the Rideau Canal, which becomes a large skating rink during the winter months, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, one of 30 museums in the city. 

The city’s economyT
he capital of Canada, Ottawa is the country’s fourth largest city with a population of approximately 900,000. The city has more than 1,800 companies involved in industries ranging from telecommunications and software to semiconductors and wireless technologies. Ottawa is home to companies such as Nortel Networks (telecommunications) and MDS Nordion (a global specialty health science company). Other companies with a presence in Ottawa include Dell (technology solutions), MBNA Canada (bank) and MD Physician Services. The city also houses Canada’s
Parliament, and Supreme Court.

Where to stay
Fairmont Château Laurier sits next to the Parliament buildings in the city’s downtown. Reminiscent of an expansive French château, the Fairmont has a health club with pool and three dining options. The Lord Elgin, also downtown, is located near the Rideau Canal and Rideau Centre, a three-level shopping center. Many of the rooms have views of the Canal and Confederation Park. ARC Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel, is a third choice downtown. The hotel is just minutes from the Ottawa International Airport.

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