Central and Eastern European countries are becoming hot markets for renewable energy companies, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which has been working with European businesspeople to get Atlanta companies access to such markets.

“Our outreach to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary has allowed our members to lay the groundwork for expansion into the fast-growing markets of Central and Eastern Europe,” said Jorge Fernandez, vice president of global commerce at the chamber.

Mr. Fernandez took on his post at the chamber a year ago after working with Delta Air Lines Inc. In recent months, he has organized business symposia here for Atlanta businesspeople and delegations from Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

In partnership with Czech Honorary Consul George Novak, the chamber also led a trade mission to the Czech Republic to celebrate the launch of Delta’s new non-stop route between Atlanta and Prague, Czech Republic, which opened May 2.

During the trip, the group met with representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague, CzechTrade, CzechInvest and the commercial office at the U.S. Embassy in Prague.

Each organization emphasized renewable energy as an important emerging market there, said Ricardo Hubler, director of international trade development, who represented the chamber on the trip.
“Central and Eastern European countries have strict energy standards that they have to meet to be in the E.U.,” Mr. Hubler said, explaining that Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which are all new E.U. members, were looking to renewable energy sources to meet their standards.

The countries have a preliminary set of standards that they must implement by 2010, but additional energy efficient initiatives will be needed in the 15-20 years that follow, he said.

In particular, the Czech Republic is looking at clean-coal technologies as well as water, biomass, wind, solar and nuclear power as alternative energy sources, said Mr. Hubler.

New E.U. members are also attractive to Atlanta investors, because they have high annual growth rates, access to billions of euros of structural funds, which the E.U. provides them to develop their economies, and are politically stable, he said.

The chamber is currently working with the Georgia Department of Economic Development to identify local companies interested in a business trip to Central Europe in September. The trip is being organized by U.S. Commercial Service and is still being finalized, he said.

The chamber’s global commerce group also works to bring in foreign-based businesses, so when Mr. Hubler was in the Czech Republic, he met with companies that were interested in Atlanta as an entry point to the U.S. market.

In particular, they met with breweries and lead-crystal making companies, he said.

The annual gross domestic product growth rate for the Czech Republic in 2006 was 8 percent, compared to 3.9 percent in 2002.

Poland’s growth rate was 7.5 percent, compared to 2 percent in 2002, and Hungary’s was 3.6 percent, compared to .6 percent in 2002.

All three countries entered the E.U. in 2004.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce – Ricardo Hubler, director of international trade development (404) 586-8455; Esther Campi, senior vice president of communications, (404) 586-8474

George Novak, honorary consul of Czech Republic in Atlanta, (404) 786-9190

American Chamber of Commerce in Prague – Weston Stacey, executive director, 420 222.329.430