The competition was intense but Georgia got some special help at the sixth SelectUSA Investment Summit held in Washington June 10-12.
The annual conference brought together business leaders and economic development officials from 79 global markets and 49 U.S. states and territories.
The government sent its U.S. Secretaries of Commerce, Treasury, Energy and Housing and Urban Development as well as its director of the National Economic Council. Eight U.S. governors also were there along with more than 3,000 attendees.
Yes, even Ivanka Trump, adviser to her father, the president, attended and hobnobbed with foreign executives.
But they were all outshone by Georgia’s special agent, Captain America, who interacted with the attendees exchanging business cards and letting them know that Marvel movies are filmed in Georgia.
Pat Wilson, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in an onsite interview with Global Atlanta, praised the event “because we continue to see a return on that investment every single year. The leads that we see are vetted by the Commerce Department and the Commercial Service. They are legitimate leads and they want to invest in the United States.”
He quickly acknowledged, however, that despite all the positive prospects, the competition is intense. “They already know which states they want to talk to and, you know, just working (Georgia’s) booth, over the last two days, I’ve had a number of companies that have come up to me specifically saying, ‘We’re here to to look at Georgia. We’re here to look at Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. We’re here to look at Georgia and North Carolina. They’ve done their homework…”
Having to deal with so much competition forced his department to bring on Captain America and differentiate the state from all the others. “”We’re highlighting this year the film industry in Georgia and the impact it has had on our workforce and the quality of life.”
Inevitably his support led to a question about the state’s controversial heartbeat bill that restricts abortions, and Mr. Wilson responded straightforwardly.
“We’re not the only state in the country that has had legislation on abortion and this is one of the things that I’ve said over and over again, ‘business is business is business’ and if you’re looking for an investment that is $100 million over a 50-year window, the current political climate is not something that is necessarily a consideration in that long-term investment. We’re continuing to see our economy in Georgia grow; we’re continuing to see leads and we’re continuing to see company announcements that they’re coming to Georgia.”
Mr. Wilson admitted that with Captain America working the floor and his economic development team securing new relationships, he was able to break away and visit some of legislators on Capitol Hill.
“I spent my day today on Capitol Hill meeting with our delegation. Part of my talking points were that there are a number of federal programs that may miss the mark. This (SelectUSA) is not one of them. We really encourage our delegation to continue to support the Commercial Service’s efforts to pull this event off every year.”
The interview with Commissioner Wilson was conducted at the summit by Mark Pierson of Atlanta.