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Gruelling preparation for Olympic SMB hopefuls Add to ...

In a move as eagerly anticipated as the games themselves, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games is gearing up to issue licences to small and medium-sized companies seeking to attach their names to the Winter Games.

Successful applicants will gain the right to place the Olympic logo on products and accessories created for sale in retail outlets, or used by official sponsors to promote their association with the Games.

Companies that have already gone through the application process say it can be as arduous and time-consuming as the uphill climb in a cross-country ski run.

Many say they have been deterred by the daunting task of filling out detailed business proposals and finding they are out of the running if any information is missing.

But for those that succeed, the payoff is potentially enormous.

The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are expected to attract a television audience of three billion viewers, 10,000 media representatives, as well as athletes and Games officials from up to 80 countries.

"The worldwide audience that gets to see your products is tremendous," said Walter Bramsleven of Sitka Log Homes, a builder of log homes based in the northern B.C. town of 100 Mile House.

When Sitka was chosen to build the 4,200-square-foot log home that was used as a showcase for British Columbia during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, it received literally thousands of inquiries from potential customers, Mr. Bramsleven said.

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the company doubled its work force to 30 when it won a lucrative contract to build three ski lodges beside the downhill ski run.

With that kind of exposure up for grabs, Sitka will once again be watching closely when the organizing committee for the Vancouver-Whistler Games makes a licensing announcement, expected to come as early as next week.

Sitka Log Homes is far from being alone.

The list of applicants is expected to include suppliers of everything from paper clips and cups to office furniture.

Among them Kootenay Knitting, of Cranbrook, B.C., which rose to prominence four years ago when the CBC was looking for sweaters to outfit its reporters for the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Kootenay Knitting is also a supplier of hats to Hudson's Bay Co., a national partner in the 2010 Olympics.

But Kootenay Knitting wants the additional exposure that will come with a licence for the Games.

"We have been working on [the 92-page licence application]for a long time," said Carole Jeske, a marketing manager with Kootenay Knitting.

She said the company didn't file its proposal without putting a lot of thought into what it would be able to produce if its bid was successful.

"You have to be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort into the bid process to make sure you do it right," she said.

Companies surveyed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses said the amount of administration required to complete the application has made some of them wonder whether it is really worth the effort.

"The bidding process makes it challenging for small businesses to get involved in the Olympics," said Laura Jones, a spokeswoman for the CFIB, which has 105,000 members across Canada.

Kootenay Knitting's Ms. Jeske said it can take up to 100 hours to respond in detail to a typical request for proposals.

Still, company officials who have been involved with the process say anyone thinking of making a proposal would do well to keep their eyes on the website 2010Commercecentre.com.

The site is operated by the B.C. Secretariat, an agency of the Ministry of Economic Development.

"We want to make sure that our companies have the opportunity to become bidders," said Colin Hansen, the Minister for Economic Development.

The website is set up to provide regular updates about the opportunities that are available to companies and individuals who want to bid on projects related to the 2010 Olympic Games.

It contains a section where all Olympic-related contracts that are put out to tender are posted and can be accessed on-line.

For an annual fee of $100, similar updates are available to businesses that register with Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee's B.C. bid website.

VANOC officials were not available for an interview but in a notice on its website, VANOC says it will attempt to provide notice to businesses listed in the database when an opportunity arises in their category.

Help for small businesses is also available from people like Maurice Cardinal, a Vancouver-based business consultant who offers advice to companies wanting to capitalize on what he calls "global momentum."

Mr. Cardinal believes the best Games opportunities are available to companies operating in the sporting goods, ecotourism and security sectors.

"People who make high-end art objects will also be able to sell their products to large corporations wanting to offer gifts to their executives," Mr. Cardinal said.

Even if companies fail in their bid for licences, they should not be deterred, Sitka's Mr. Bramsleven said.

His comment is based in part on projections that hosting the Games will be a major stimulus for the provincial economy as a whole.

Between 2002 and 2015, the direct impact is expected to generate 55,000 person-years of employment and close to $1.9-billion in wages and salaries in B.C. alone, according to a study by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc. on behalf of the provincial government.

According to the report, for example, the Games are expected to generate jobs at firms that supply raw material to signage companies that in turn are commissioned by the Olympic organizers.

The report also sees jobs being created at machinery-leasing firms, or raw-material wholesalers that supply products and services to other firms that are themselves building Games-related transportation infrastructure.

"A lot of private companies will be doing construction work in the years leading up to 2010," said Mr. Bramsleven.

"They still need people to supply pencils and paper clips . . . There is a lot more work out there than people think."

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