State officials and business leaders have jetted off to several countries, including South Korea, Israel and Brazil, on the hunt for potential job-creating investment in Nevada.
On Wednesday night, for possibly the first time, a country came to Nevada.
At the 2014 International CES, Poland’s foreign ministry worked with the local consulate to stage a reception to bring together 11 Polish technology companies with locals tied to tech or international trade.
The Polish government has placed a priority on boosting two-way trade, said honorary consul John Petkus, so riding the coattails of a huge trade show made sense.
“There was no cost to the state for this, since these people were here already,” Petkus said. “Hopefully, this has created a template for doing one or two a year.”
Rather than signing contracts, he hoped to at least create introductions and get both sides to know more about each other. A couple of UNLV students heading to Poland recently asked him if the country had Wi-Fi, with the answer being that it is widespread.
“People here think of a bunch of old women walking around wearing babushkas,” Petkus said.
On the other hand, many local businesspeople still cower in fear of exporting, he said.
“It’s just a preconceived barrier you have to break down,” he said. “Sometimes, international trade is as easy as calling UPS.”
To add weight to the mission as something more than run-of-the-mill speeches and free hors d’oeuvres, Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schepf, flew in to speak to the approximately 70 people who attended.
Game Technologies came to the event with something that seemed like a natural fit for Las Vegas: electronic dice. But instead of use on casino tables, said Dominik Jechorek, the company’s international sales manager, they are tied to a tablet game called Dice+ that hit the market during the summer.
The dice, with lighted numbers, wirelessly connect to on-screen games designed for family play. They also have internal circuitry that invalidates a roll if a die does not turn a certain number of times, an anti-cheating protection that any pit boss could understand.
“We are always looking for good game developers, and we are sure there are some here in Las Vegas,” Jechorek said.
Zylia, which conducts a wide range of research and development, also sought leads to partners and capital.
“We want to get to know people on the U.S. side in person,” co-founder Piotr Szczechowiak said. “I think this meeting is the start.”
“This opens chances for both sides to work together,” said CEO Maiek Byczynski of FunApp.
The company not only develops mobile games but medical applications.
So far, the numbers are meager. Poland’s exports to Nevada come to only $25 million a year, with Nevada sending just $10 million the other way. This does not rank Poland in the top 25 of Nevada’s trade partners for either category.
An continuing hindrance is the international perception that the local economy does not extend beyond the Strip.
“People still ask me which casino I live in,” Petkus said.
But the state’s heightened emphasis on international trade to diversify the economy meshes with Poland’s.
“Economic diplomacy is a priority with my bosses in Warsaw,” said Mariusz Brymora, the consul general in Los Angeles.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at email@example.com or at 702-387-5290.