Southeastern firms ranging from those involved in the forestry industry to high-tech and service companies are increasingly interested in Australia as a location for their regional headquarters, Dennis Smith, Australia’s senior investment officer based in the U.S., told GlobalFax during a June stopover in Atlanta.

     With Asia expected to be a growth market for wood products such as houses and furniture, Mr. Smith, who is based at the Australian Trade Commission in New York,  thinks that Australia’s land mass and substantial groundwater will be important factors in encouraging the development of the country’s forests and related industry in the future.

      He also said that Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure and its cost competitiveness versus other Asian countries are being recognized as important incentives for choosing Australia as a location for investment.

      According to Mr. Smith, half a dozen Atlanta-based companies currently are looking either to set up joint ventures, regional headquarters or manufacturing facilities in Australia.  In the past four years, the number of multinational companies with regional headquarters in Australia has jumped from 80 to 250, he added.

      Part of a rekindled interest in Australia, he said, stems from the policies of the government of Prime Minister John Howard, who was elected in March 1996.  Mr. Howard has led initiatives to reduce the size of government as well as the country’s trade deficit.

      For more information, Mr. Smith may be reached at (212) 408-8474.