Member Spotlight: Jim Pettinger, UCanTrade

By Naomi Gish

Jim Pettinger of Ferndale is a businessman who has both changed with the times, and manages to continue running his business with the same values he started with over 30 years ago.  Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Jim worked in the computer programming industry for many years. He lived in Libya for a few years as a contractor before creating a business of his own: a business and logistics services company for Canadian importers and exporters called UCanTrade Inc.

Jim was working as a consultant in Vancouver, BC in the mid-1980’s when he networked with a Bellingham local who was also interested in cross-border computer consulting. They collaborated and created a seminar, “How to Market Your Software in the US.” Jim found that the seminar attendees expressed an interest in bringing business across the border into the U.S.

At that time, tariffs were being reduced, creating an attractive market for Canadian investors and launched the idea for Jim’s current business – UCanTrade.

“I’m only one example of a Canadian who came down this way for business. There are many others.”  Pettinger explains that the space that his 130 clients’ goods occupy, has tripled in the last year. He now has warehouses in three locations in the Ferndale area which when combined cover 60,000 square feet.

UCanTrade employs 26 people who oversee many services: freight services, product returns, warehouse storage, mail services, order fulfillment & pack-n-pick, technical repair and e-commerce fulfillment as well as giving Canadian businesses a US identity.

Technology allows this business to run smoothly which is of the utmost importance. With the computer systems, UCanTrade utilizes, clients can log on and follow every movement of their product from a shopper placing the item in their cart to its final delivery. Jim takes pride in all of his business dealings, which he feels sets his business apart from larger corporations who run a similar business model, who wouldn’t be able to handle the diverse clientele that UCanTrade is used to dealing with. Reputation in this business is everything, especially when it comes to packaging and shipping. There are many small moving pieces that are meticulously guided by organized systems so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Pettinger mentions the quirkier goods like name badges for Macy’s and 7-Eleven employees which pass through his warehouses on their way into the United States.

Another client is KPMG of New Zealand who send files through to the mail room at the main warehouse on Slater Rd.  UCanTrade will scan everything and ship it to the correct recipient. Another is an American school teacher in Japan who wants a container full of “American things” like toilet paper and Lincoln logs for the students. They may charge a more in comparison with their competition, but there is more quality and trust that goes into the client relationship because of the detailed work that UCanTrade is responsible for.

The marketing of his business looks somewhat different than a usual business because his clients come from all over the world. As a member of the Bellingham Regional Chamber for over 25 years, as well as other area chambers, Jim meets regularly with other business owners who also conduct business across the border, and has attracted clients by being part of local circles. He also sends out newsletters, utilizing email marketing and has an internet presence. Many of his clients come from client referrals, as well.

Jim has seen many clients come through his business. “We get to watch them grow up. We had a client who sold his business to Microsoft and made a lot of money.” UCanTrade has had at least one client for over 30 years, quite a few for over 20 and many for more than a decade.