Gov. Brian Kemp, First Lady Marty Kemp and other state leaders join Bridgestone officials to announce Georgia's No. 1 business ranking.

While they explicitly linked it to the opening of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, officials announcing Georgia‘s eighth straight No. 1 business ranking also offered a fitting, if inadvertent, nod to the international connections driving many recent investment decisions.

Gov. Brian Kemp and others gathered at a Bridgestone golf ball factory in Covington to celebrate Site Selection’s designation of the state as having the top-ranked business climate yet again, citing an annual survey of corporate executives and site-selection consultants.

For the first time since its unbroken streak began, the state shared the honor with a Southern counterpart: North Carolina, which the magazine said narrowly missed tying Georgia for the top slot in 2019. North Carolina fared better in the executive portion of the survey, while Georgia excelled when it came to recent project activity.

The state has announced projects promising $4,31 billion and 11,833 new jobs so far this fiscal year, outpacing last year’s job total by 45 percent even amid the pandemic.

Much of that investment has come from abroad: Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson has made at least two European recruitment trips, including a recent tour of Germany and Italy that sealed multiple new commitments.

Bridgestone unveiled a No. 1 State golf ball in support of Georgia’s announcement. The company is one of many Japanese-owned firms that have signed onto the Georgia Made initiative. Photo: Georgia Department of Economic Development

Bridgestone Golf’s factory and research and development center employing nearly 160 people is a reminder that many companies in the state may be connected globally even when highly Americanized in their branding and personnel.

Bridgestone’s origins are in Japan, and its golf branch is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Sports Co. Ltd. They’re both part of the broader Bridgestone Group emerged as a tire manufacturer in Japan in the 1930 and beginning a global expansion in the 1960s that was accelerated further when the company acquired Firestone in the 1980s. Founder Shojiro Ishibashi hailed from Fukuoka prefecture, an area on the southern island of Kyushu that has sister-city links with Atlanta.

“I’m so proud that Georgia has earned this top business distinction for a record-setting eight years, and it is an honor to accept this award from Site Selection magazine,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release.

Before announcing the award, he toured the facility, which produced golf balls emblazoned with “No. 1 State” artwork. Bridgestone is part of the Georgia Made initiative, which allows approved manufacturers to use a logo certifying products as being produced in the state.

Most participants in Georgia Made Day at the Capitol in February had foreign ownership, including a strong contingent of Japanese-owned firms including Hitachi Automotive Systems, Kubota Manufacturing, YKK and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, also based in Covington.

Area Development magazine earlier this year named Georgia its No. 1 state for business for the seventh year running.

Over at Augusta National, defending Masters champ Tiger Woods, who recently re-signed his contract with Bridgestone Golf, is tied for fifth on the second day of play after shooting four-under Thursday.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...