Georgia travelers taking advantage of Delta Air Lines Inc.’s nonstop flight to Prague, Czech Republic, will find themselves with easy access to rapidly growing markets in Central and Eastern Europe.
“All that area will grow,” George Novak, honorary consul general for the Czech Republic in Atlanta, told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview. “It must grow because it was kept artificially, by communism, down from national development.”
Recognizing the need for access to this region, Delta opened the nonstop flight June 20 with festive receptions upon takeoff and landing.
The Prague reception drew approximately 300 people including a deputy mayor of the city and Richard Graber United States ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Mr. Novak said, “I think that it was a very smart move on the part of Delta because Prague is a hub from which you go to Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, the Balkan countries, and south Europe.”
He added that countries recently admitted to the European Union, such as Romania and Bulgaria, are eager to compete economically with established European economic powers.
“There are 27 countries in the E.U.,” Mr. Novak said. “The starting seven are way ahead of everybody else.”
“The smaller countries are saying, ‘We want to be where they are,’ and it will happen,” he added.
The nonstop flight provides Georgia companies with a chance to take part in this economic boom, as Atlanta and Prague are now open to “much more intensive business and educational exchanges,” Mr. Novak said.
Recognizing the possibility for partnership with the Czech Republic, Gov. Sonny Perdue made certain that his European tour this June included a two-day visit to Prague.
The governor met with President Vaclav Klaus to discuss possible cooperation between Georgia and the Czech Republic in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Due to their mutual interest in aviation, Mr. Perdue, Sen. Eric Johnson and Kenneth Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, were each invited to pilot one of Czech company Evektor spol. sr.o.’s light sport aircraft by the company’s CEO.
Evektor’s high-tech manufacturing capabilities provide an opportunity for partnership in Georgia’s aerospace industry.
Mr. Novak attributed the Czech Republic’s rapidly improving economy, indicated by a gross domestic product growth of 6.4 percent last year, to the traditional industrial resilience of the region.
He added that when the region, which is now the Czech Republic, was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the ruling class developed the area as an industrial center in order to take advantage of cheap, skilled labor.
The traditional Czech educational system continues to develop skilled laborers through a combination of apprenticeship and formal schooling, according to Mr. Novak.
Czech industrial strength continued through the communist period, though lack of contact with the Western world blocked research and development, he added.
This lack of outside ideas fueled what the consul general called, “Czech inventiveness,” or the creation of native products in an effort to keep up with advancing technology.
In recent years, Mr. Novak has witnessed the adaptation Czech business people have made to Western business practices. “In Prague, in the 90’s, they didn’t know how to write a contract the way we understood the contract,” he said. “That is by now gone; they are well-trained, business-oriented, accomplished people.”
Mr. Novak became involved in the development of post-communist Prague by using his Atlanta-based construction company, George Novak Co., to restore the historic Alcron Hotel to its former glory in 1930s jazz style.
The five-star hotel and two restaurants within the building are now operated by Radisson SAS.
The hotel opened in 1998, 30 years after the Russian invasion that ended the revolution known as the “Prague Spring” forced Mr. Novak to leave his home country.
Mr. Novak continues to be involved in business with the Czech Republic, regularly taking the nonstop flight to Prague.
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Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in the United States of America – George Novak