Georgia has appointed a Montreal-based firm to sell the state as an investment destination and promote its exports in Canada following the retirement of its longtime representative in its top export market.
Gail Morris recently stepped down after 10 years of service, prompting a nationwide search within Canada that officially started in May and culminated in early August.
CIDEP, an economic development consultancy based in the Quebec commercial center with offices in Toronto, was selected out of four bids.
CIDEP co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Ludovic Ortuno will lead a team of four other specialists focused on promoting Georgia products and wooing new investors to join the growing cadre of Canadian firms with key operations in the state.
It’s hard to overstate the Canadian market’s importance to the state from a trade perspective, despite the fact that European nations tend to make more visible inbound investments. Georgia exported $5.9 billion worth of planes, cars, auto parts, flooring, poultry, lumber and other products to the country of 38 million people in 2019.
That was 68 percent higher than the $3.5 billion in exports to Mexico, the No. 2 destination, and more than the combined total to No. 3 Germany ($2.7 billion) and No. 4 China ($2.3 billion). Canada’s position has perhaps been even further solidified amid growing tensions with China and the implementation July 1 of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
Most of CIDEP’s trade work will be reacting to inquiries from Georgia firms that have been vetted for export readiness by the state’s trade division; the state foresees some 70 such contacts per year for its Canada rep, who will also be asked to represent the state at various trade shows throughout Canada.
The investment aspect will require CIDEP to be more proactive, according to the request for proposals. The firm is expected to meet in person with 32 Canadian firms with existing Georgia operations. “Relationships with these existing industries are critical to GDEcD’s mission,” the RFP reads.
CIDEP is also asked to initiate contact with at least 45 new prospects and meet personally with at least eight of them to generate qualified leads that turn into active Georgia investment projects.
Montreal makes sense as a location for Georgia, and not least because French-speaking Quebec is among Georgia’s partners in the Regional Leaders Summit, a network of global states and provinces that share best practices on areas of mutual interest.
The group has played a key role in Georgia’s global economic development outreach; the state’s China office is in Qingdao, Shandong province, another RLS member, while Gov. Brian Kemp last year traveled to the German state of Bavaria to re-launch the state’s Munich office.
Quebec and Georgia were also founding members of the SEUS-Canadian Provinces alliance, which launched in Montreal in 2007 and convened first in 2008 in Savannah.
The annual event has become a boon for business relations and a venue for connecting smaller firms with larger “anchor” combines from Airbus to Bombardier. It alternates between Southern and Canadian locations and last year returned to Montreal after 12 years.
Entertainment, fintech, life sciences, smart cities and aerospace are among the industries of mutual interest for Georgia and Quebec, which has operated its own office covering Quebec’s interests in Atlanta since 1978.
“Trade between Québec and Georgia has grown in importance thanks to the complementary nature of their economies, both of which are focused on technological innovation and shared sectors of excellence,” said Donald Leblanc, delegate of the Québec Government Office in Atlanta, in a news release. He addd that trade between the states stood at $2.5 billion.
That’s not to say that Georgia’s outreach will be limited to the province, as many of its largest partners are spread throughout Canada. Interfor, the state’s largest lumber producer, is based in Vancouver on the Pacific Coast, while Irving Consumer Products, which has invested about $870 million in a tissue plant in Macon, is based in New Brunswick. Coreslab Structures and Magna International’s Decostar, both Ontario companies, are also among the Canadian companies with operations in the state.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, thanked Ms. Morris for her service to the state and added that international trade and investment will be vital to the state’s post-COVID-19 recovery.
Outgoing Canadian Consul General Nadia Theodore said her team would be ready to work with CIDEP to drive business ties between Georgia and Canada.
Georgia has allocated $115,000 for the CIDEP contract, which is renewable annually up to four times. A baseline payment of $110,000 may be augmented with an additional $5,000 based on how the firm would deploy the additional capital. Learn more at cidecpiqc.com.