It used to be that Georgia’s focus was on competing with other states for business investment but, in today’s world, competition is global. That is why the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is working more closely with our members and other business leaders around the state to increase Georgia’s global reach.
Recently, the Georgia Chamber’s International Programs Committee along with the city of Valdosta and its Mayor John Fretti hosted a summit entitled, “Road to Recovery: Helping Georgia Businesses Identify and Bridge International Markets for Economic Growth.” The current economic slowdown has been felt worldwide, but there are still emerging and growing international markets that Georgia companies are or should be targeting for opportunities.
Valdosta is a good example of a community that understands international markets are key to economic growth. In fact, Valdosta is home to more than 17 global manufacturers who are part of the reason this area of South Georgia experienced positive economic growth in 2008.
The same efforts that are making Valdosta successful are being duplicated in other communities across the state with the assistance of the state’s Department of Economic Development. All of that was on display at the summit last week as attendees heard presentations from local businesses succeeding in international trade, local government and community leaders building successful international relationships, and state leaders’ successes in marketing Georgia overseas. International trade yields measurable economic results. We know companies that sell overseas grow an average of 18 percent faster, and their workforces are typically 10 to 15 percent more productive than those that don’t.
Georgia is well-positioned to capitalize on its unique assets for attracting additional international investment. We can boast of the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, the fastest growing port on the East Coast in Savannah, a convenient road and rail network for moving freight, world class research universities, a technical college system that is the envy of the country, and a network of state trade offices operating in 10 countries around the world. Based upon these resources alone, it’s no surprise that Georgia is home to more than 2,500 internationally owned facilities representing 52 countries.
As the voice of Georgia business, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure businesses across the state understand the opportunities and resources available to grow their business overseas. That is why we are planning a similar summit in the fall in Augusta. We can take pride in the international successes of our state and, working together, we can continue to help Georgia grow globally.
George Israel is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and a former mayor of Macon.