Interview by Ethan Carilli, Quinnipiac Economic Research Team
Dana R. Bucin is an immigration attorney with a business/corporate legal background. She is the Chair of the Murtha Cullina Immigration Practice at Murtha Cullina LLP based in Hartford, Connecticut. Dana also serves as the Honorary Consul of Romania to Connecticut, she is a founding member of CEENET and she serves on the board of Connecticut’s World Affairs Council among her other appointments. She has spent her professional life in Connecticut promoting cross border business with a special focus on Romania and other CEE countries. Any person or business looking to connect with attorney Bucin can reach her here: https://www.murthalaw.com/our_people/dana-bucin.
What made you want to go into international business law?
“My inspiration to practice international business law came from my entrepreneurial mother who built a business from scratch in Romania. As she ran her business and exported products to other European countries she ran into all sorts of obstacles and I took notice. As far as the immigration angle, my own story as an immigrant led me initially to this field. I first came to the United States as an undergraduate student, went on to law school, and then stayed in the US as an attorney.
Even before I was an Honorary Consul, I was already helping Romanian businesses expand their operations to the United States which is one of the reasons why the Romanian government decided to bestow this honor upon me. My position as a lawyer at Murtha Cullina makes me an especially good match for this position. Any time any of the foreign businesses need assistance like a visa or contractual work, I can help them as Honorary Consul and my law firm can assist them as well.”
To what extent has there been foreign investment from Romania in Connecticut?
“I’ve been in the position of Honorary Consul of Romania for a little more than a year and I’ve already had the opportunity to help some small to medium sized Romanian businesses expand into the Connecticut area.”
Dana explained that, in what has been a yearlong process, she has been working with wineries in Romania to import their products to the United States and is now at the point where the company is ready to distribute in the state. To complement the wine, she has also been working to import cheese products to the state as well.
“Romania is well known for its IT sector and that is an area that I’m focusing on for the future.” Another area of interest is the Romanian art sector, in which Dana sees a lot of potential for expansion in Connecticut. And of course, these are just a few of the areas where she sees opportunities immediately.
What makes Connecticut attractive to Central European businesses?
“Firstly, it is the cultural affinity. There is a strong Central and Eastern European population here that accounts for about 12% of the population. Connecticut’s climate closely resembles that of Romania and is an easy landscape for a European to adapt to rather than a place like Arizona with wide open spaces and deserts. Any European would be overwhelmed by a place like that.
Connecticut is also strategically placed between the New York and Boston markets, while at the same time it is less expensive. The strong and educated workforce is very well served by the 42 universities in the state and one of the strongest heath care systems in the country.”
What are roadblocks to businesses that want to expand to Connecticut?
“The primary issue to solve is that many Romanians do not know anyone here in Connecticut. It is the job of the Honorary Consul to act as a magnet and to give Romanians access to the existing ethnic community and act as an intermediary that could make introductions with potential American partners.
You would think that taxes here in Connecticut would be an issue, but they are truly not. Compared to what Europeans are used to in terms of taxes, they may almost be better off here in that regard. Even the worst tax states in America are better when compared to taxes in most European countries.
One of the main roadblocks is the visa system which is extremely convoluted in the United States. As an immigration lawyer, I know firsthand how difficult it is.
Once you clear the immigration hurdle, however, one of the biggest and unanticipated impediments is how the banking system deals with foreign nationals. Many foreign businesspeople come here on a temporary business visa which is not enough to open an account or take out loans. But they are often restricted in obtaining a longer-term visa until they show they have a bank account and viable business. So it’s a Catch-22 and is why many of the foreign businesses retain a local manager to deal with the bank.”
What does Connecticut do to attract international business?
Dana is on the board of various organizations that promote Connecticut to foreign businesses. The main organization is the Metro Hartford Alliance Global Business Council.
“The Metro Hartford Alliance provides a platform do discuss initiatives that can be undertaken to promote Connecticut to the rest of the world. For example, the latest initiative is to identify areas in Connecticut where there is a lack of talent and help fill the areas with foreigners that could bring these much-needed skills to the state. There is a concerted effort to help foreign students graduating from universities in Connecticut, particularly with STEM degrees, to stay here and be a part of the labor force. There are also other organizations like DECD and CERC along with assorted chambers of commerce that are helping to promote Connecticut to foreign business.”
Is their anything else that should be emphasized?
“As I see it, while I have a special place in my heart for Romania, the block approach is probably the most effective course of action for Central European countries. Together the Central European countries like Hungary, Romania and Poland are stronger than they would be separately. The fact that 12% of the population of Connecticut is from either Central or Eastern Europe makes a strong case for this approach. As a block, we can get noticed.”
In Romania there is a saying: “It is not the place, it is the person that makes the place holy”. Now that the vibrant Romanian community has an Honorary Consul to anchor Romanian interests, it is much easier to welcome new immigrants to land here and build their businesses without being too culturally isolated. Dana, along with Honorary Consuls from other countries including the Central European countries of Hungary and Poland, provides a vital service to both Romania and the United States by helping these businesses expand into the US market.
In Dana’s opinion, “Connecticut is a perfect place for these new businesses to come to.”