Mary Waters, left, visited Richland Rum co-owners Erik and Karin Vonk to offer them the Global Grit award in recognition of five straight years entering at least one new market with their Georgia-grown rum.

Editor’s note: This sponsored article was provided by the Georgia Department of Economic Development and was written by Mary Waters, deputy commissioner for the department’s trade division.

While the last two years certainly have had their challenges, we’ve seen firsthand how Georgia businesses have pivoted and adjusted to not only stay afloat, but to grow. In 2020, we saw many Georgia companies expand into new markets, strengthen existing global relationships, and increase international sales.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade team had the opportunity to put a spotlight on 17 Georgia companies by recognizing them with 2021 GLOBE Awards for expanding sales to new international markets. The eighth annual GLOBE Award winners exported their products and services to a total of 50 distinct countries in 2020.

The state-led awards program also emphasizes that more than 80% of this year’s winners were small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. A few other highlights from the 2021 winners include three recognized as Exporters of the Year for adapting during a global pandemic and two companies that have earned five consecutive GLOBE distinctions from the State of Georgia. Three GLOBE winners were first-time exporters in 2020. 

The International Trade team showcased Georgia’s 2021 Exporters of the Year for their perseverance during a global pandemic. 

Alpharetta-based Inno Concepts Inc. (dba CocoaTown) was named Exporter of the Year for a small company. Employing only nine people, the company’s “Empowering Chocopreneurs” webinar series allowed them to pivot to continue serving customers.

Not only did their international engagement grow during the series, their sales during the year also increased. CocoaTown also entered five new export markets despite the challenges of the pandemic. Exporter of the Year for a mid-size company was Quantum Aviation Solutions, Inc. in Duluth. Quantum Aviation – employing 30 – was able to secure deals in new international markets as they modified their distribution model to maintain existing services remotely. Employing more than 120, Peachtree Corners-based CentricsIT was named Exporter of the Year for a large company. By providing global IT solutions to their clients – CentricsIT utilized their built-in adaptability to help clients deal with situations that were complicated by the pandemic.

Hydro Dynamics Inc. was also honored with the Global Grit award for five straight years entering a new export market. Some 20 percent of the company’s sales come from exports.

The spotlight continues to shine as the inaugural Global Grit Award was presented to two companies for earning five consecutive GLOBE distinctions from the State of Georgia: Hydro Dynamics, Inc. in Rome, and Richland Distilling Company in Richland. Hydro Dynamics jumped in to exporting in 2008, and with instillations now on six continents, they attribute 20 percent of their current sales to international markets. Richland Distilling Company has received national and international recognition for their award-winning Georgia Grown Richland Rum. A must see agri-tourism destination in southwest Georgia, owner Erik Vonk has since opened a second distillery in Brunswick on Georgia’s coast. Richland Rum welcomed the Atlanta-based Consular Corps including six consuls general and the Dean of the Consular Corps by taking part in the state’s 31st annual VIP International tour. Located on opposite ends of the state – keep an eye on Hydro Dynamics and Richland Distilling Company as we anticipate both continuing to maintain their GLOBE Award status.

While 2020 caused uncertainty for many Georgia businesses – three GLOBE Award winners exported for the first time ever. An unbelievable achievement for any company during a global pandemic, it is important to note that Emrgy, Inc. in Atlanta, Storm Water Systems in Cleveland, and United Spirit of America in Peachtree City, are all small businesses that went global for the first time during these exceptional times.

Georgia’s 2021 GLOBE Award winners not only employ hardworking Georgians across the state, but they all have a major impact on our state’s economy. More than 70 percent of winners worked with GDEcD’s International Trade team on entering and expanding to new markets for at least three consecutive years. In 2020, the state’s International Trade team was also awarded the President’s “E Star” Award for Export Service. Georgia is the first entity in the nation to earn a fourth “E” Award, which is the highest honor given to providers of services to U.S. exporters. While Georgia’s International Trade team has been recognized for ongoing “significant contributions to an increase in U.S. exports,” – the GLOBE Awards, since 2014, also put a direct spotlight on the Georgia companies that support these efforts by continually seeking out new international sales markets.

As Georgia’s International Trade team continues to work closely with many local businesses to tackle today’s challenges and plan for the future – a few common storylines among the 2021 GLOBE Award winners include flexibility, logistics challenges, transparency, and relationship-building, among others. The International Trade team’s customized approach allows them to help companies confront obstacles head on. Their services are free and available to all Georgia businesses. For additional information about the state’s International Trade team, visit

The complete list of the 2021 GLOBE Award winners:  

  1. AGRI International LLC, Marietta 
  2. Americo Manufacturing Inc., Acworth 
  3. CentricsIT, Peachtree Corners
  4. DeLong’s Gizzard Equipment, Inc., Macon 
  5. Emrgy Inc., Atlanta 
  6. Hydro Dynamics, Inc., Rome 
  7. Inno Concepts Inc. dba CocoaTown, Alpharetta 
  8. Osborne Wood Products Inc., Toccoa 
  9. Petrolern, LLC, Brookhaven 
  10. Plurium Technologies, LLC, Peachtree Corners 
  11. Quantum Aviation Solutions, Inc., Duluth 
  12. Storm Water Systems, Cleveland 
  13. The Seydel Companies, Pendergrass 
  14. Trans Globe, Woodstock 
  15. United Spirit of America, Peachtree City 
  16. Universal VAT Services, Atlanta 
  17. ZCorum, Alpharetta