By Frank Sims:
Mr. Sims is a resident of Atlanta. He retired from Cargill Inc. in 2007, where he worked for more than 30 years in numerous roles, including as president of the company’s North American grain division and as a corporate vice president. He is currently serving as president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and on the Board of Directors of Pact, an international development NGO based in Washington, D.C. Sims earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas.
Health care, immigration, the opioid epidemic. With so many challenges in our own backyards, it is easy to understand why many Americans might shy away from challenges overseas that don’t seem to directly affect us. We don’t live in a vacuum. For better or worse, we live in a rapidly globalizing world. An increase in the price of one commodity ripples throughout global markets, and ends up impacting supply, demand and prices here at home. We can’t turn a blind eye to issues outside the borders of the United States.
That is why what happens globally directly impacts a state like Georgia—a state with a comparable nominal GDP to countries like Norway, Austria and Singapore.
With 26 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in metro Atlanta and with 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the U.S., our economic success is also deeply tied to the global economy and economic development around the world.
We are reminded of this time and again: In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University Hospital brought two infected American responders to the Ebola crisis in West Africa to our doorstep. And in March 2016, when a suspicious package set off panic at Jackson Atlanta International—the world’s busiest airport every year since 2000.
It is critical to the continued prosperity of Georgia that citizens everywhere have opportunities to prosper—and international development is one of our primary means for achieving this goal.
Many U.S. companies already understand this. In 2007, I retired after three decades with Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to 70 countries around the world. Through the company and its foundation, we supported communities where they live and work, not because it felt good—although it does—but because it was good business. The same is true for many other major American companies that rely on stable, well-developed foreign markets to create jobs and opportunities in places like Cobb or Bibb counties.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, international trade alone supports 41 million American jobs, and emerging economies account for nearly 60 percent of the global economy and more than half of U.S. exports.
Take Georgia-based Coca-Cola for example. It has long recognized that a healthy and growing business isn’t possible unless the communities they serve are healthy and sustainable. To that end, working with Pact, an international development nonprofit on whose board I serve, Coca-Cola’s commitment to sustainability, community development and women entrepreneurs has helped thousands of women in Myanmar and Vietnam create a path out of poverty and toward economic stability.
For U.S. businesses, these women and their families are not only partners in development, but also potential customers in new, fast-growing markets.
While the economic case for international development is strong (11 of our top 15 export markets are former recipients of U.S. foreign assistance), we can’t forget the altruistic case. The American people are among the most generous when it comes to helping those in need. And U.S. official development assistance represents that humanist spirit and value—a key component of our moral global leadership.
So, as a proud citizen of the great state of Georgia, a former businessman and a supporter of international development, I want to remind all of Georgia’s representatives—at the state level, or in the U.S. Congress—that foreign assistance is a smart business investment, that yields exponential gains. Not just for those overseas, but also Georgians from all walks of life.