Cities to be visited - Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen - were chosen based on existing relationships, with Nanjing ties being perhaps the strongest. Mr. Ji, the mayor, visited Atlanta while in the U.S. last July to learn about the tourism and financial sectors. He foresaw opportunities for Atlanta and Nanjing - both higher-education hubs - to collaborate on scientific research.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber, a main organizer of Mr. Reed's current mission, frequently calls on Nanjing companies during yearly visits to China, and DeKalb County has hosted delegations from the city.
On Monday, the Nanjing foreign affairs office coordinated a seminar attended by 70 local companies, according to a posting on the Invest Atlanta Facebook page. Business matchmaking with the help of the U.S. Commercial Service is a key aspect of the trip, which is focused nominally on foreign-direct investment but mainly seeks to open doors for Atlanta companies exporting to China.
The trip has already proven helpful for the city's efforts, Mr. McGowan of Invest Atlanta told GlobalAtlanta in an email from China.
"After only two days in China we are already seeing the value for our city and our businesses in coming here. China is such a huge market and we are seeing many potential needs that our businesses can fill. And that will result in creating jobs for the people of Atlanta," Mr. McGowan said.
Looking at the list of companies, that means selling services more than products. Lawyers, real-estate firms, staffing agencies, security providers, construction companies, architects and financial firms all have joined the group. Only a few, like an LED lighting company, sell physical goods.
Ric Hubler, director of global business growth at the metro chamber, said that sales of services overseas are hard to track but that the chamber considers them exports. He said companies on the trip have a solid chance to make profitable connections.
"They're all on the mission because they have good opportunities to find new Chinese clients for their services," he told GlobalAtlanta, also in an email while traveling in China.
China is Georgia's second largest export market, buying $2.4 billion in goods from the state in 2011.
The delegation will be in Nanjing until Tuesday, March 27, before heading to Hangzhou. Then the mayor will travel to Shenzhen for company meetings while the rest of the group goes to Guangzhou. Five Atlanta City Council members are also traveling with the mayor.