As Turkey’s economy continues its rapid growth, the Georgia Ports Authority was one of several agencies and companies seeking to capitalize on increased trade by taking part in a March 24-28 business mission to the Mediterranean nation.

The Turkish economy averaged 7 percent growth over the past five years, Murat Yalcintas, president of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business organization, told GlobalAtlanta in a previous interview.

Renée Rosenheck, senior international trade specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said that representatives of various industries participated in the March trip, including the ports authority, restaurant franchise managers and agricultural producers.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in Turkey,” Ms. Rosenheck said. “Their gross domestic product is increasing, they’re trying to enter the European Union and economically they’re advancing. The companies that came with us were already discussing and looking at the Turkish market when we publicized the mission.”

Stacy Watson, manager of economic and industrial development at the ports authority, said that he went to Turkey to drum up more business with one of the Port of Savannah’s fastest-growing shipping partners. He added that import/export volume between Georgia and Turkey increased from more than 14,500 containers in 2003 to more than 63,600 in 2007.

He also said that the 2005 decision of Secaucus, N.J.-based Turkon America Inc., the U.S. shipping line of Istanbul’s Turkon Container Transportation and Shipping Inc. to move its Southeastern point of entry from Charleston, S.C. to Savannah boosted volume by 30 percent alone.

Going on the trip gave him the opportunity to promote Georgia’s largest port and get Turkish views on doing business in the state.

“The Georgia department set up meetings with shippers, we attended those meetings and we heard about all the issues and all the benefits of doing business with Georgia,” Mr. Watson said.

One of the meetings was with Maersk Denizcilik A.S., a subsidiary of Copenhagen, Denmark-based shipping line Maersk A/S operating in the Turkish ports of Bursa, Istanbul, Izmir and Mersin.

Other trip participants included restaurant and retail franchiser Norcross-based NexCen Franchise Management, a subsidiary of NexCen Brands Inc. in New York.

The parent company owns the Great American Cookies, Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream, Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzelmaker and Pretzel Time restaurant franchises as well as retailers Athlete’s Foot and Shoe Box.

Dan Benton, NexCen’s director for Middle East and Asia-Pacific development, said that Turkey’s young population and growing middle class makes it an attractive market for restaurant and retail brands.

“Many people in the U.S. don’t realize how quickly emerging economies are growing,” he said. “We’re particularly interested in the growth of the middle class because our brands are consumer brands, and Turkey’s middle class is growing very rapidly.”

Mr. Benton added that NexCen operates in 45 countries and is looking at opportunities in many growing markets including Bulgaria, China, India, Israel, Jordan, Romania, South Africa and South Korea.

He also said that the most useful part of the trip was meeting with Turkish businesspeople who had been screened by the Georgia department to ensure their compatibility with NexCen’s brands.

“One of the things we’ve found is not to go into a country blind and spin our wheels with companies that can’t help us,” Mr. Benton said. “We like to find a master franchisee to open our franchise all over the country and the Georgia department did a good job screening potential business partners.”

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...