The recent announcement of a significant Dutch investment expansion in Cobb County is just one example of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to further transform the county into a hotspot for international business, according to Dana Johnson, chief operating officer of the Cobb Chamber and executive director of the Chamber’s economic development initiative, SelectCobb.
Netherlands-based conveyance systems and logistics automation company Vanderlande Industries Inc. announced a $59 million expansion of its North American headquarters in Marietta, Ga., that is creating 500 new jobs. The company, which has operated in Cobb for 23 years and has installations in some 600 airports worldwide, already employs more than 1,250 people in Georgia.
“Whether attracting international investment or supporting local companies to expand internationally, our SelectCobb economic development team and the Cobb Chamber have the right tools and the right partners to help companies optimize their international operations using Cobb County as a base,” Mr. Johnson said.
He added that one of the keys to the Chamber’s success is working with a great statewide team that includes the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), the Cobb County Government, utility partners like Georgia Power Co. and regional Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), local companies, education partners and other county and city partners.
“We all work together to continue to expand international business opportunities in metro Atlanta.”
Driving International Opportunity Home
Cobb County is intentionally growing its international strategy to attract more foreign investment.
International companies of all types and sizes, like Novelis Inc., a subsidiary of India-based Hindalco Industries Ltd., and Skynamo U.S. from South Africa, have located in Cobb.
What brings them here to begin with is the county’s workforce and the ability to “actually do business,” Mr. Johnson said.
Cobb is the third-largest county in Georgia by population, and it boasts the lowest tax rates. The county is AAA bond-rated, which gives it the ability to turn permits around quickly, plus its public safety and security assets provide companies peace of mind.
The Chamber helps international businesses navigate the many incentives available to them, including job creation and retention programs, workforce recruitment and training, job tax credits, small business incentives and more.
But international companies also need a community network to be successful. Cobb excels in helping them build those partnerships, including assisting them to secure the right workforce.
The Right Workforce
Finding the best talent has always been a chief concern for companies. In today’s market, there’s a race to find talent for domestic companies and international companies alike.
Having the talent that companies need is what is driving decisions in economic development. Cobb County is able to boast a strong pipeline of talent with its access to some of Georgia’s top educational institutions and workforce partners.
SelectCobb puts together customized workforce solutions for international investors with the assistance of partners like WorkSource Cobb, Chattahoochee Technical College, Kennesaw State University (KSU) and Georgia Quick Start, a premier workforce training program that prepares workers with the technical skills needed by specific companies.
A 2021 Cobb Workforce Partnership study showed high demand for workers in the construction and skilled trades, advanced manufacturing, technology and communications, healthcare and bioscience, and logistics and supply chain industries. The Chamber has formed Target Industry Councils, bringing together the business community, educational systems and other stakeholders to facilitate workforce development and fulfill employment needs.
Aftercare for the Long Haul
The Cobb Chamber also takes an intentional approach to aftercare with international companies locating within the county.
“We don’t just bring them here and then walk away. We are proactive in involving companies and integrating them into our economic union here in Cobb,” Mr. Johnson asserted. “We reach out to them on a regular basis to see how we can help, connect them to state and local services and act as a partner for them according to their needs.”
That’s a major reason prominent international investors like YKK Group and ThyssenKrupp AG maintain a large presence in Cobb. They appreciate the chamber’s care and attention to helping them remain successful – even through crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chamber continues to help companies wherever they are in their post-pandemic recovery. From small- and mid-sized companies to very large ones, the chamber is supporting them to hit a new growth trajectory. Economic activity is showing steady growth as companies get back to doing business, and the chamber and its partners are actively assisting them.
A strong pipeline of companies is interested in Cobb, with a number of recent wins in international and domestic investment. And the chamber anticipates that enthusiasm continuing.
Diverse International Investment and Trade
The Vanderlande expansion shows some of the diversity of international action happening in Cobb. The ongoing construction of German manufacturer Thyssenkrupp Elevator’s new test tower and headquarters and the expansion of Japanese fastener giant YKK’s North and Central America headquarters’ jurisdiction are undoubtedly important investments in the county. But it’s not just Germany and Japan, Cobb’s two largest foreign direct investment countries; the county’s international reputation extends to many other countries as well.
While Germany and Japan comprise the largest international cohort in Cobb, with 26 and 20 companies, respectively, at least 31 countries are represented among the county’s international investors. Some 20 Dutch companies are located in Cobb, and 16 are from the United Kingdom. At least 10 are from France, nine from Canada and eight from Luxembourg. International companies in the county range from manufacturers to financial services to retail trade.
In addition to working closely with the GDEcD international trade division and the MAC’s Global Commerce team, the Cobb Chamber also collaborates with the eight foreign consulates and binational chambers of commerce in Cobb County and the more than 25 foreign government offices throughout Georgia that promote bilateral trade between their respective countries and the state.
The Chamber’s continued assistance throughout a company’s international journey keeps domestic companies in Cobb even as their operations span the globe.
For example, the Cobb Chamber and partners helped local publisher and retailer The Lumistella Company to grow its Elf on the Shelf and Elf Pets brands in international markets, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The company’s co-CEO, Christa Pitts, acknowledges the Cobb Chamber’s role in helping companies navigate partnerships locally and abroad for distribution, export assistance and even trade agreement compliance.
“The Chamber’s resources for small businesses are far greater in scope than people might know. It’s not just about swapping business cards; they really can help grow your business,” Ms. Pitts asserted. “Even for services the Chamber might not directly perform, they can connect you immediately with a resource.”
The Chamber hosts regular export seminars that help companies begin or advance their international sales and expansion. Entitled “Passport to Exports” and “Resources for Going Global,” these seminars are presented in partnership with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at KSU and the MAC. The Chamber also presents webinars on various topics useful for businesses that are expanding their international activities, such as navigating trade agreements.
Cobb companies have consistently been recognized for their international successes. The Metro Atlanta Chamber recently awarded one of its annual Atlanta Metro Export Challenge grants to Cobb-based IML Corp. The $5,000 reimbursement grant and global go-to-market strategy assistance will aim to boost the international sales of the Marietta company’s emergency notification systems.
Location and Work-Life Balance
International companies come to Cobb County for the distinct advantages it offers in terms of logistics and lifestyle.
Cobb is a popular place to do business in the U.S. because not only is it located in close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but it also has the Cobb County International Airport – McCollum Field. With customs capabilities, international company executives can easily fly into McCollum on charter or company jets to visit their operations in Georgia or throughout the U.S.
The county also has easy access to the Port of Savannah, plus extensive interstate and rail access across the country.
Cobb really is the best combination of urban and suburban living, Mr. Johnson asserted. It is home to the Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Braves and all that the city of Atlanta has to offer, plus cities like Smyrna, Marietta and Acworth have a small-town, local feel.
“We truly have the best of both worlds. And with Kennesaw Mountain, Chattahoochee Recreational Center, the Silver Comet Trail and many other attractions, we have the right quality-of-life pieces for international companies and their employees. It’s a great place to do business and to live.”
We’re Here to Help
The Cobb Chamber and SelectCobb are ready to assist international companies and existing industry with their global growth strategies. We can connect you with the right partners for a variety of business support, including economic development, small business and innovation and regulatory services.
Reach out to Amanda Blanton about international programs and global trade at firstname.lastname@example.org