In 1973, Georgia made a shrewd down payment on its future by opening the first of its international trade and investment offices in Tokyo and following it up soon after with one in Brussels.
Half a century later, the state operates offices in 12 key markets, and the foreign investment seen then as a long ways off has become central to its economic development strategy.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, praised the vision of then-Gov. Jimmy Carter in setting up the Tokyo office less than 30 years after from the end of World War II.
“As a state that was not far out of the civil rights era, as a state that that had very low wages and low-skilled jobs as the backbone of where we were, it’s is pretty amazing to think about a governor who decides, ‘You know what we’re going to look internationally for opportunities.’” Mr. Wilson said during a reception celebrating the state’s international partnerships.
Mr. Carter also created a film office — the first state in the country to operate one, long before Georgia became a film-industry mecca, Mr. Wilson said.
Katie Kirkpatrick, CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, which partnered with the state on the reception, said the moves made while she and Mr. Wilson were “just babies” are paying dividends today.
“Today, some of our state’s strongest long term investors are from — you guessed it — Japan and Western Europe,” she said, giving a nod to the longevity of the state and metro-area’s international relationships.
The event was held Monday at the Atlanta History Center during an inbound visit of the state’s international representatives, who perform market research, woo investment prospects and showcase Georgia exporters in 12 markets: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Europe (out of Munich), Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom.
Monday’s reception was the first time the event had been held in person since before the pandemic, restoring a key opportunity for local companies to meet the state’s “boots on the ground” around the world.
“Three years is a long time to stay away,” said Ms. Kirkpatrick. “And it is vitally important to equip these teams from around the world with firsthand contacts and firsthand experiences. A Zoom conversation, while efficient, simply doesn’t replace this type of interaction that you all are having while you’re here.”
Mr. Wilson said that starting in the ’70s, Mr. Carter, his immediate successor George Busbee, and governors all the way up through current Gov. Brian Kemp, have solidified the importance of international market over time as Georgia has moved up the global value chain.
“Some of our most exciting projects really are projects that are coming from our international relationships and our international community,” said Mr. Wilson, who had just returned from a quick trip to South Korea, where he met with the Hyundai Motor Group and other Georgia-invested companies. With a slew of electric-vehicle projects, that country is quickly become one of Georgia’s largest sources of job-creating foreign investment.
So far in the fiscal year that started in July, foreign investment has accounted for 74 percent of the investments and expansions in the state, Mr. Wilson said. That’s largely thanks to Korean-owned projects.
Mr. Wilson also tied the state’s record exports last year of $47 billion (a $5 billion or 11 percent increase from 2021) to the work of the reps opening doors for Georgia products.
Tuesday evening, the reps met with Mr. Kemp at the governor’s mansion and then headed out on the road, visiting Canada’s Irving Tissue in Macon, Denmark’s Dinex in Dublin and a training center in Pooler operated by Georgia Quick Start. Once in coastal Georgia, they visited the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal and met with the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authorityto learn more about the $5.5 billion Hyundai investment in Bryan County.
Source : Global Atlanta