In July, I had the opportunity to participate in Governor Sonny Perdue’s Trade Mission to Canada. The aim of the mission was to attract Canadian companies to invest in Georgia, thank some of the 120 Canadian companies that already have a presence in the state, promote tourism and raise awareness of our state.
Over 50 business leaders representing the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Power, Georgia EMC, the Royal Bank of Canada, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Atlanta Gas Light, MEAG Power, Georgia Ports Authority, and individuals from various counties to name a few, participated in the trade mission.
Canada is Georgia’s top trading partner with $4.3 billion in exports in 2004 – approximately one-fifth of the state’s total exports to Canada equaled the combined total of its exports to all 25 European Union countries. Some 120 Canadian-owned companies currently operate in Georgia with products from biotechnology to agriculture machinery.
In turn, many Georgia-owned companies do business in Canada and include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, InterContinental Hotels, UPS, and more, and many business opportunities continue to grow between Georgia and Canada.
While in Canada, I personally made calls to five companies, and two of these have shown interest in having a business presence in Hall County. These meetings allowed me to form valuable relationships and provided important connections with potential Canadian businesses.
Receptions, meetings and on-site visits with the delegation, Governor Perdue and U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins provided the Canadians with the opportunity to network with state economic development officials and representatives of many Georgia communities and companies.
During the mission, Governor Perdue announced two new companies locating to Georgia. Polycor, Inc., a quarrier, manufacturer and wholesale distributor of granite, marble and limestone selected Tate, Georgia in Pickens County. BoostWay International, a transportation/logistics company, will locate its U.S. terminal in Newnan, Georgia, representing a $1.8 million investment.
Both Toronto and Montreal are busy cities. During the mission, I visited museums, the CN Tower in Toronto, shopping areas, waterfront developments, Mount Royal Park and the Museum of Archeology and History in Montreal and Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.
Toronto is a large city and very business-oriented, much like an American city. Montreal is more tourism-oriented – smaller, slower-paced, scenic with a French influence. Both cities had great neighborhoods, were easy to navigate, and full of arts, parks, universities and terrific shopping.
It is important for Georgia and our local community to participate regularly in trade missions to other countries. Personal connections with businesses and government leaders will be important to our successful economic future.
In addition to her business experience, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kit Dunlap has a strong economic development background. She served on the Board of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism (now the Georgia Department of Economic Development) for 10 years. She held various posts on the GDIT&T Board including Chairman for two years. Kit was a founding member of the Gainesville -Hall County Economic Development Council in 1992 and served as the council’s first Chairman. She currently serves on the German-American Chamber of Commerce-South and is Chairman of the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District. She also served on the Metro Atlanta Quality Growth Task Force with 60 metro Atlanta business, government, environmental leaders and private citizens.