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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Yorker Named New AmCham Head

The new president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia rolls into town next week to grab the reigns of the 560-plus-member corporate advocacy group.

New York resident Andrew Somers, who will officially become the local AmCham chief Dec. 15, was chosen out of six final candidates to end the three-month search. He succeeds Scott Blacklin, who is stepping down after three years of work.

Though reluctant to rattle off his specific goals or plans before he pow-wowed with his new AmCham colleagues, Somers did say that he would like to expand their work in the regions.

"The regions are close to my heart. I’ve taken many train rides and many local airplane rides to and from the Russian regions," Somers said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I’ve come across some excellent people in local government and business."

As president of his own consulting firm for the last five years, Somers has traveled to Russia many times — including 120 days in 1999 — to work with both American and Russian businesses, as well as with local administrations. A fluent Russian speaker with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Russian studies, this will be the first time he has lived in the country.

Somers said he’s looking forward to working more closely with the federal government and heaped praise on President Vladimir Putin, who he said had a "sophisticated understanding" of the business and investment conditions that are required for the country’s success.

"I use the word sophisticated in the root sense of the word, the Greek word sophia meaning wisdom. And by that I mean … someone who shows an awareness of the complexities of the situation," Somers said. "As opposed to the technician who solves the specifics."

As positive signs of Putin’s effectiveness, Somers cited the passing of tax legislation, closer work with the State Duma, the creation of seven super-regions, and the president’s demonstrated discipline in his judo feats.

Somers views the new country divisions as an essential step toward coordinating federal policy.

"In order for Russia to exploit its enormous economic potential, things have to work on the federal level.

"Russia certainly needs focus from the top, and in my view Russia is getting that from President Putin."

From 1973 to 1995 Somers worked for American Express and, beginning in 1989, was executive vice president and chief legal officer at the company. He first ventured to Russia in 1973 with the American Bar Association.

He added that Moscow is his second-favorite city behind New York.

AmCham has two chapters in Russia — in St. Petersburg and Moscow — to promote favorable conditions for Western businesses, as well as to advocate solutions to ease trade and investment issues that would serve its members’ interests.

"The role of AmCham in Moscow is a critical one for supporting the Russian government’s efforts in creating an environment that would be good for business and good for investment," Somers said.