How’s the climate there?

Dwight K. Bohm: The level of corruption in Russia is not worse than elsewhere in Asia and South America

After working for Emerson in North America and Asia, American Dwight K. Bohm served as general director of Metran in Chelyabinsk from 2004 to 2010. He is currently Vice President at Marine Business Strategy & Development in North Carolina. Dwight spoke about doing business in Russia.


D. Bohm

Age: 64

Education: Petroleum Management

Dwight K. Bohm completed degrees at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the University of Kansas in Lawrence in Petroleum Management. In the 1990s, he served as president of Ohkura-Rosemount Japan Co. and representative director of Fisher-Rosemount Japan Co. in Tokyo. He later worked as vice president of Daniel Middle East & Africa before coming to Chelyabinsk in 2004, where he worked for the next six years.

Why was Chelyabinsk chosen as the location for Emerson’s Global Engineering Center?

There was already a successful group of engineers with experience in product development that worked in the same environment as we do. We were also happy to see that their Research & Development people worked near the factory that mass-produced the final product - this is always important.

Finally, we realized that setting up a similar center in Moscow would have been too expensive. The relative costs would have made it uncompetitive.

What are the greatest challenges you faced in doing business in Chelyabinsk?

Communication and, specifically, business meetings were a huge problem in the old days. The meetings were unproductive and usually involved someone standing and reading from a piece of paper before a large, glazed-looking audience. Moving from that to an environment where you would have people giving key messages and exchanging ideas was difficult.

So you still see bits of the old Russia now and then.

What is the greatest misconception foreign investors hold about doing business in Russia?

The level of corruption. Yes, there is corruption. But I’ve worked in Asia and South America and can say that it’s no worse here. The stereotype that corruption is everywhere in Russia and that you can’t trust anyone is just not true. You need a good process, good leaders and good mechanisms in place.

On the other hand, there is excessive bureaucracy. We often have to have a bunch of documents singed, sealed and stamped. But these things are evolving over time.

Did you feel supported as an investor by the local government in Chelyabinsk?

There is a desire among the regional leaders to provide a high level of support. I know my successor at Metran has access to the governor’s staff. The regional governments know they’re in competition with the rest of the world and each other to attract investors, and I know the Chelyabinsk region makes a huge effort to compete with neighboring Yekaterinburg. The governor’s office has always been very supportive of what we do.

What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure in Chelyabinsk?

My view going into Russia was that “this is going to be really difficult.” How well our integration with Metran went was the most satisfying thing of all. I saw some of our young leaders develop very rapidly, and being their mentor was very gratifying.

I left knowing that the company was in very good hands in terms of the Russian leaders that were in place. At Emerson, my colleagues now point to the project at Metran as an example of how a merger should be done.

How has the investment climate changed since you came to Chelyabinsk?

It has improved. Carbo Ceramics, the Texas-based producer and supplier of ceramic proppant, came to Chelyabinsk after us and their experience was very different than ours - it was a lot smoother. A part of the problem is that we occupy a federally owned building in Chelyabinsk; a lot of the issues we face are connected to this.

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