Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
Georgia Department of Economic Development is enlisting the aid of neighboring states in Atlanta’s pursuit of a direct flight to China, Commissioner Craig Lesser told GlobalAtlanta before his Aug. 18 trip to the country.

“They know if a route is going to come to the Southeast, it’s going to come to Atlanta,” Mr. Lesser said of his economic development colleagues in the Southeast, who, he said, are supportive of Delta Air Lines Inc. getting a direct flight between Atlanta and Beijing.

He also said that southeastern development officials work together to promote the region internationally.

Mr. Lesser meets annually with economic development officials from Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and on occasion, Florida. He expects to have his next meeting with state officials in the fall, he said.

Getting support from neighboring states for a direct flight to China could weigh heavily in Delta’s favor, as the airline carrier must demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Transportation that the new route would serve a large public need. Delta is expected to make a case for the new route this spring when the department considers granting a new carrier service to China.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lesser will lobby for an Atlanta-Beijing route with Chinese aviation officials while in the country this week, he said.

Joined by six other Georgia academics and business representatives, Mr. Lesser will also underscore Atlanta’s desire to obtain the next Chinese consulate in the United States.

Mr. Lesser will also scout locations for Georgia’s newest international office set to open in Beijing in early 2007 and interview potential candidates to represent the state in China.

The Beijing office will be Georgia’s 11th international office, opening as trade and investment between the two locales takes off.

China was Georgia’s sixth largest export destination in 2005, with exports to the country totaling $979 million, an increase of 482 percent since 1998, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Trade to and from China flowing through the Atlanta, Brunswick and Savannah ports totaled $12.1 billion in 2005, the department also said.

In June, Ningbo, China-based Lehui Enterprises announced it would open a food condiment manufacturing plant in Newnan, which is expected to attract between $12 million and $15 million in investment to the area. The plant will be China’s first investment in Georgia.

In addition, Atlanta-based companies are growing their operations in China. Wire and cable maker Superior Essex Inc. announced in July that it secured $12 million in long-term project financing from the China Construction Bank to complete the first phase of construction of a magnetic wire facility in Suzhou, China, near Shanghai.

And Atlanta’s United Parcel Service Inc. opened its first two UPS Express retail centers in Shanghai earlier this month.

Mr. Lesser is accompanied on his trip to China by Doug Blissit, vice president of public affairs and corporate real estate at Delta Air Lines; C. Donald Johnson, director of the University of Georgia School of Law’s Dean Rusk Center and former chief U.S. textile negotiator with China; Kevin Langston, director of international operations at Georgia’s economic development department;

Emily Fu, board member of real estate brokerage company RE/MAX Greater Atlanta; Lynn Pitts, senior vice president of sales at the Savannah Economic Development Authority and Chris Young, chief of protocol for the state of Georgia.

Look for daily updates about the state’s trip this week from GlobalAtlanta.

For more information, contact Bert Brantley, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Economic Development at (404) 962-4830.