Georgia’s global marketing efforts, including its work to become the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas and its strategic industry planning initiatives should help boost the state’s forestry business, Economic Development Commissioner Craig Lesser told the Georgia Forestry Association last week. “We can sell Georgia products around the world, and we will,” Mr. Lesser said during the association’s annual meeting. “We have an unbelievable opportunity for marketing Georgia forestry because we’re competing globally,” he said, referring to the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s 12 formal trips abroad in the past year to market Georgia products to the world, plus 75 other trips to push Georgia’s FTAA bid.
Such marketing efforts are helping to sell Georgia as an investment location and could help to sell Georgia forest products, he said. But with increased global competition in forestry, new innovations, products and technologies must come from within Georgia’s industry itself to adapt to changing consumer demands for those products, he added.
To devise plans for new innovations in forestry, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Strategic Industries Initiative has appointed a task force on forestry best practices, Mr. Lesser said. The initiative, which involves industry leaders in important sectors such as aerospace, agribusiness, healthcare and logistics, did not originally include forestry. But a task force of 12-15 industry representatives has since been added to discuss best practices for Georgia forestry’s future success.
The task force is scheduled to present its ideas to the governor in a formal report on Aug. 1. The group has 35-40 specific recommendations for improving Georgia’s forestry industry performance, but it is open to suggestions from outside businesspersons and academics as well, said Ken Stewart, director of the Georgia Forestry Commission who is heading up the task force.
After evaluating the recommendations of the various task forces, the state will be able to “do a better job at connecting the dots,” Mr. Lesser said, and making sure the world understands the vitality and importance of forestry in addition to the state’s other strategic industries.
Georgia’s forestry industry, like that of the United States more generally, has seen a recent drop in profits, resulting shrinking demand for paper and industrial packaging, low wood prices, higher energy costs, overstocked inventory and an influx of Asian imports.
“Georgia is in a unique position,” Mr. Lesser said, noting that Atlanta’s 51 foreign consulates and 29 binational chambers of commerce, along with its FTAA efforts, have been helping to sell Georgia products. Since the FTAA push began in 2003, four new Latin American consulates, five new direct flights in the Americas, 200 official visitors from hemispheric countries and more than 1,000 Latin American and Canadian academic and business leaders have visited Georgia, Mr. Lesser noted.
For more information about the Strategic Industries Initiative, visit www.newgeorgia.org/Strategic%20Industries.asp. To contribute ideas for the forestry industry’s task force, contact Mr. Stewart at (800) GATREES. Contact Mr. Lesser through the Economic Development Department at (404) 962-4830.