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SAN BERNANDINO, Calif. – The ill feelings expressed by France towards America on its decision to go to war with Iraq earlier this year could have easily created a divisive atmosphere for Larry Sharp, president/CEO of Arrowhead Credit Union and more than a dozen California business owners who recently traveled to Marseilles and Provence to establish trade contacts. But the air was free of political debate and replaced with a warm reception and the potential of reciprocating services and products that could help foster import and export relationships. Arrowhead and the Center for Global Management at California State University-San Bernardino brought a U.S. delegation to the French Riviera and Provence in the Mediterranean port city of Marseilles. The trip was designed to pair up business owners from Southern California’s Inland Empire with their counterparts overseas in an effort to tap the economic resources that may have been overlooked, Sharp said. The Inland Empire is a 28,000 square mile region comprised of San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and the eastern tip of Los Angeles County. “Economically and regionally, we have so many things in common,” Sharp said. “This is an opportunity to set up bilateral trade arrangements between the two regions for a part of the country that has great potential.” Officials left for the 10-day trip to France on Sept. 5. Once there, Sharp and others met with the region’s Consul General, representatives from the Marseilles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, international trade department, local business owners, university professors and an economist. Among the French business companies that met with the California delegation were representatives from a wine production company, a fashion designer and CMACGM, one of the largest cargo container shippers in the world. Sharp said the two cities share similar economic makeups because the Inland Empire is the logistics and distribution center for California and Marseilles is the same for France. The contacts are crucial since Arrowhead formed its Members Business Services, LLC, (MBS) subsidiary in January 2003 to provide a complete line of business loans and deposit services. Prior to its formation, MBS was the Business Banking Group, a department of Arrowhead. In 2002, the Business Banking Group approved and funded more than $49 million in new and renewed business loans for Arrowhead members and grew business deposits by nearly $10 million. Arrowhead was also the first credit union licensed by the Small Business Administration’s Santa Ana district to offer its guaranteed loan programs. Sharp said a number of the California business owners have since moved their accounts over to Arrowhead, reaffirming the credit union’s long-time presence in the area’s business sector. Talks to tour both countries began in August 2002 when Cal State Professor Mo Vaziri established several contacts in Marseilles through consultation work including a student exchange program that brought students to the university. Sharp got involved after a fact-finding business trip to the same city. Since December 2002, one of Arrowhead’s interns has been putting together brochures and other marketing materials for distribution to area business owners. Now that contacts have been established, the next step is to continue to foster them, which include inviting and hosting French officials at the 2004 Inland Empire World Trade Conference. Meanwhile, Sharp said one of the California business owners will act as an agent for the fashion designer who’s trying to increase his export presence in the United States. Another business owner extended the France trip by a week to nail down to meet with additional officials. John Husing, an economist who’s followed the growth of the Inland Empire for nearly 40 years accompanied Sharp to France and gave a presentation to officials in French on the potential of the California region. “The Inland Empire produces new jobs at a 5% rate, or nearly 50,000 per year, outpacing all other state regions,” Husing said. “So, this is an ideal way to foster international trade. The region’s skill base will deepen, making it attractive to technology, professional and corporate office operations.” -

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