Latin American diplomats in Washington are excited about their countries sending delegates to the Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta, according to Salvador Stadthagen, project director of a United Nations affiliate that is helping to plan the June 11-13 event.

Mr. Stadthagen, who is organizing the project from Washington for U.N. affiliate CIFAL Atlanta, was here for the March 13 signing of a formal memorandum of understanding between the City of Atlanta and the U.S. Department of Commerce to host the conference.

The Commerce Department announced in November that Atlanta would host the first-ever competitiveness forum that is to focus on best practices in innovation, education and workforce development, small business development and successful supply chain management for cities throughout the Americas. More than 500 of the hemisphere’s senior-level business and political leaders are expected to attend.

“It’s capturing a lot of interest in the region,” Mr. Stadthagen told GlobalAtlanta at City Hall, where Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Walter Bastian signed the memorandum of understanding.

Also enthusiastic about the forum is Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who, along with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings , is expected to attend the conference, said Mr. Stadthagen, who is Nicaragua ‘s former ambassador to the United States.

Atlanta was chosen to host the conference because of its developed logistics infrastructure, its strong educational institutions and its history of public-private partnerships, Mr. Bastian said.

“Everything that we’re trying to highlight is represented right here in Atlanta,” said Mr. Bastian, who noted that Atlanta beat out other strong contenders to host the conference. Louisville, Ky., and North Carolina’s Research Triangle were also competing to host the forum.

He added that the City of Atlanta’s close working relationship with CIFAL Atlanta was a plus for Atlanta being selected to host the conference. Ms. Franklin chairs the CIFAL Atlanta board of directors.

Working with the department of commerce is also a boon for the City of Atlanta, which is working to build its reputation as a business hub worldwide. “There is no better partner for Atlanta than the department of commerce,” said Ms. Franklin, explaining that the department’s expertise in doing international business would be an asset to Atlanta.

The conference is an effort by the Bush Administration to consider ways the Western Hemisphere can be more competitive in relation to other regions of the world. President Bush suggested organizing such a conference after attending the Summit of the Americas conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005.r 2005. Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories Americas Competitiveness Forum

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