Georgia Poised As America’s Gateway

As foreign markets multiply and the global economy becomes a reality, Georgia is primed to lead the region and ultimately, the country, in international trade, investment and tourism. Neighboring countries Canada and Mexico have proven to be valuable partners in each of these endeavors since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and state leaders are eager to capitalize on Georgia’s lengthy history and unique position as the southern gateway to them both.

Last year, Georgia exports to Canada and Mexico totaled $4.7 billion. Trade with Canada, the state’s largest trading partner, increased approximately $200 million last year. Exports to Mexico, the state’s third largest trading partner, was more than $1 billion. With this in mind, the Americas Gateway Strategy, a statewide initiative to position Georgia as the southern gateway to and from the Americas and maximize economic growth potential has been initiated.

Georgia’s Advantages – The state has several significant assets working to entice trade partners, investors and travelers. Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta boasts the second highest volume of passenger traffic in the world and provides access to more than 80% of U.S. markets within two hours via air. By truck, Georgia companies are two days or less from more than 80% of the U.S. industrial market and nearly 80% of the largest consumer markets.

Georgia also offers the most extensive rail system in the Southeast; more than 19,000 miles of highway; 300 miles of inland waterways; and two deep-water ports, including the tenth largest container port in the United States and the largest foreign commerce port on the South Atlantic coast, the Port of Savannah.

Georgia companies are also well positioned for international trade through many industry initiatives and government connections. Through its partnership with the United States Export Assistance Center (USEAC), Georgia offers research, marketing and financial assistance to companies looking to expand into foreign markets. Their services include locating and pre-qualifying appropriate partners and customers; providing advice on current issues and local business practices; and arranging appointments for overseas visits.

The Yamacraw initiative is making Georgia a world leader in the design of broadband communications systems, devices and chips. The program includes an education initiative to strengthen electrical engineering, computer science and software engineering programs at universities across the state. Yamacraw also includes a Seed Capital Fund for startup companies in the incubation phase; and research and jobs creation programs at the Yamacraw Design Center. The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) combines the state’s research universities, business community and state government into a partnership for job development in the technology arena; the Georgia Biomedical Partnership does the same for the biomedicine industry.

Georgia’s Growth – Despite the recent downturn in the economy, Georgia still ranked 15th in the country in exports in 2001. State tourism officials are putting their new “Georgia on my Mind” marketing slogan to work; the slogan, with roots in song lyrics, license plates and former marketing campaigns, is intended to impart a sense of state identity and Southern hospitality on visitors.

GDITT recently assembled a group of economic developers to form the Georgia Tourism Product Development Council (GTPDC) to assist, promote and develop new tourism opportunities for Georgia. Georgia also will host the Tour de Georgia, a premier cycling event that will attract world-class professional cyclists, fans, enthusiasts and visitors from across the U.S. and around the world, in April 2003.

Georgia’s Potential – Is your company ready to penetrate the Central and South American markets? Let us help you find out. Contact GDITT’s International Trade Division, 404/656-3571, email:, or view our website at

The ultimate impact of the Americas Gateway Strategy is limitless. Georgia is ideally positioned to lead the Southeast and potentially the country in bilateral trade, investment and tourism with our neighbors to the north and south. Doing so will mean billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs for Georgians.

Carlos Martel is Deputy Commissioner for International Trade for the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

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