While U.S.-based Baltic organizations often have a political or fundraising objective in mind, the Latvian American Business Network functions primarily to help people in the community to make connections with one another and bounce around ideas.
LABN aims to further and expand commerce, trade and investment between the United States and Latvia and aid business entrepreneurs in the two countries in sharing new opportunities.
The network started as a joint venture between the Embassy of Latvia in Washington, D.C., and enthusiastic Latvian-American businesspeople and was officially launched in early 2001.
Janis Freivalds, U.S. representative of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency, helped jump-start the idea of having such a network and continues to promote this concept as a means of helping businesspeople connect.
"Other ethnic groups make full use of their cultural networks" he says in an e-mail communication, adding that Latvians should be outgoing about making connections as well. Frievalds envisions active representation of the network in each big U.S. city "to push the cause - whatever it is, from textiles to laminated wood products to ad agencies and models."
He points to an example of how such networking can be placed into action by giving the example of a project from JFA Marketing, which he leads out of Virginia, that brought people together to produce a "periodic table of toasts."
"The poster, part of a series based on the theory of guerilla
linguistics created by John Freivalds, features toasts of 35 countries - from 'Kippis' in Finland to 'Gan Bei' in China - along with the label of each nation's representative drink, Finlandia Vodka and Tsingtao beer," writes Gunna Dickson for Reuters.
For Frievalds, this represents networking at its best.
"A Latvian in the United States developed something that was produced in Latvia and publicized worldwide by another Latvian in New York," he explains. "We just launched our fourth poster and in this case I had a Latvian firm, Base Baltic, do the design. We also use a Latvian model, Kristine Krumins, in our U.S. advertising."
Peteris Vinkelis, deputy director at the Soros Foundation Latvia, was the economic counselor at the embassy when LABN started up.
"It was useful since the U.S. is huge and the embassy was in Washington, D.C., which is not necessarily the business capital of the country," he says.
Though he has now returned to Latvia, Vinkelis recalls that some people turn to the network as a resource in finding a business mentor. He also points to other networking organizations for Balts in the United States as acting as a positive reinforcement to encourage those with an interest in the region to make new links with one another.