The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has organized a blue ribbon international development committee that is to be chaired by Craig Lesser, a board member of the chamber and former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Lesser, who served as commissioner from 2004-6 and currently is managing director of the Atlanta-based law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview that the chamber seeks to work with state organizations responsible for attracting foreign investment and promoting trade.

“The chamber wants to complement existing programs,” Mr. Lesser said following the “Eggs and Issues” breakfast Jan. 15, the Georgia chamber’s annual event held at the Georgia World Congress Center prior to the opening of the 2008 General Assembly session.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said during the breakfast that he wanted the Port of Savannah to receive $52 million to ensure that it can accommodate growing volumes of cargo carried by larger freighters.

Although the importance of trade and investment to the state’s economy is widely acknowledged, Mr. Lesser said that businesspeople, especially those outside of metro Atlanta, often are not as likely to participate in inbound and outbound trade missions as they would like.

The new committee is to help the chamber play a more active role in statewide economic development efforts, which often are related to foreign investment and trade.

Among the members of the committee are Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia; Joseph R. Bankoff, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center; Benjamin R. DeCosta, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Doug J. Marchand, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Other members of the committee include Harold Bevis, retired vice president of public affairs at Delta Air Lines Inc.; Emily Fu, a member of the board of directors of Re/Max Greater Atlanta; Jose Ignacio Gonzalez, president of Hemisphere Trade Service Inc. and executive chair of the United Nations agency CIFAL Atlanta;

Lynn Pitts, senior vice president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority; Alan Rice, founder of Savannah Luggage Works, a manufacturer of military gear, and James L. Rhoden Jr., chairman of Atlanta-based Futren Corp., a manager of country and business-member dining clubs.

An ancillary advisory committee also has been appointed including Phil Bolton, president of the Agio Press Inc.; Deke Copenhaver, mayor of Augusta; Kevin Fletcher, vice president of community relations and economic development, Georgia Power Co.; John Fretti, mayor of Valdosta; Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Heidi Green, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development;

Becca Hardin, vice president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Mullis, state senator from northwest Georgia and executive director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority.

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...