We admit it: We love our jobs. And while we enjoy being in Atlanta, traveling overseas with the help of our partners at Delta Air Lines Inc. and Lufthansa German Airlines is one of the greatest perks of what we do.
Not only do we get to experience other cultures, but traveling abroad helps us appreciate outside perspectives on our city and state. It also brings us closer with the expat communities and diplomats in Atlanta, to whom we find ourselves turning often for advice on whom to interview, where to stay and what to do as we head to the ends of the earth for locally relevant stories.
Below, please walk with us through this year’s trips, or use the links to jump to the country of your choice:
Brazil is now a $1 billion export market for the state of Georgia, and the country is well-known for a climate surpassed in warmth only by its people. But we’ve always heard that making inroads in the market can be torturous. In April, we decided to join Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on a trade mission to see for ourselves. The trip was just before the World Cup soccer tournament, which would go off without a hitch (other than the 7-1 drubbing Brazil suffered to Germany in the semifinals).
The Atlanta delegation was met with lot of enthusiasm, but they also saw ran against some cold realities. A few members of the group were pickpocketed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Lawyers in Sao Paulo warned of the red tape facing firms seeking to open local operations. After the trip, many of the companies found themselves crossing Brazil off their lists instead of plowing forward with new plans to dominate the market.
But the mayor did reinvigorate ties with a country seen as a natural partner for our city. Rio de Janeiro, an Atlanta sister city since the 1970s, will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, exactly two decades after Atlanta’s Olympics. Georgia maintains a trade office in Sao Paulo. Delta Air Lines Inc. has daily nonstop flights into multiple Brazilian cities. Many of Atlanta’s largest firms have significant operations in Brazil. Top students from Brazil are studying in the STEM fields at local universities. The list of areas for collaboration is long and varied.
No major deals were announced on the trip, but there’s always next time: Mr. Reed pledged this would not be a “one-and-done” trade mission, and his international affairs team plans to breathe new life into this growing relationship.
We also organized two events related to Brazil in 2014:
In a trip to Taiwan in June, Global Atlanta found a country squeezed by geopolitical vises and bubbling over politically.
Taiwan wants to liberalize its economy to avoid being left out of the growth happening in Asia. There’s just one problem: China. Taiwan needs to grow closer to the mainland, which considers it a renegade province. But efforts to do so have triggered unrest among student groups dissatisfied with slow wage growth and stubbornly high unemployment. They vented their frustrations first in the Sunflower Movement in March, when they occupied the legislature. Then in late November, Taiwan’s voting public ousted many leaders of the ruling Kuomintang party in important municipal elections.
Stay tuned for reporting about a massive project that represents the tension of Taiwan’s future growth plans: the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, which is looking to tie up with Atlanta.
We also organized an event on Taiwan’s diplomatic quandaries in 2014. Read the summary here: Taiwan Faces Unanswered Questions After Elections
Note: This trip was backed by the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Singapore and Vietnam
It’s about as far away from Atlanta as you can get, but with an estimated 600 million people and a growing middle class, ASEAN is becoming a market worth a 20-hour flight. But the 10-country bloc remains fragmented and socioeconomically unequal despite its growing integration, a fact that companies have to weigh as they eye deals there.
Singapore has asserted itself as the undisputed Southeast Asia hub, a place from which many Western firms are branching out into poorer but more heavily populated countries like Indonesia, home to 240 million people and a new reform-minded president, Joko Widodo. Myanmar has also been eyed with optimism after the U.S. lowered sanctions to encourage reforms by the military dictatorship. Others fear that the move came too fast.
In Singapore, we looked a arbitration center, the country’s logistics industry, small business success and the gleaming Changi Airport, known as one of the best in the world. From there, we hopped over to Vietnam to take a look at manufacturing and franchising, two industries taking off in a communist country that is following China’s market-led growth model and has already begun to take some investment from its much-larger neighbor. Despite the long and bloody war fought with the U.S., the people of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) welcomed our reporter, who spent his last two hours in country teaching English to eager college students in a public park.
Stay tuned for our upcoming special report on Southeast Asia.
Six years ago, before Mayor Kasim Reed was even in office and before Vice President Joe Biden has promised the Savannah harbor would be deepened “come hell or high water,” Global Atlanta visited Panama to write a special report on the how the canal expansion project would affect Georgia.
This year we returned and found the work in full swing, along with celebrations of the canal’s centennial. A dispute over costs didn’t fully stop work, but it did delay the opening of the third set of locks, which officials hope will be operational by this year. We interviewed top officials, the mayor of Panama City and influential members of a Georgia Tech alumni group, exploring the school’s relationship with officials among upper echelons of Panamanian society. New President Juan Carlos Varela is an alumnus who has personally endowed one student for a full scholarship in Atlanta.
A story on Georgia Tech’s ties and more will be included in our upcoming Panama special report.
Early in 2014, Georgia announced that Colombia would be the location of its 11th overseas economic development office.
Given the country’s reputation, some may wonder why. Colombia has a $20 billion-plus infrastructure project coming up, and its legacy of drug violence has given way to a sense of optimism about the future. Problems still remain, but daily life is vastly different than two decades ago. We flew down on a nonstop Delta flight to explore opportunities in Bogota, where we interviewed the country’s top infrastructure minister, and Medellin, where we talked with the mayor, who is working to bring his once-infamous city into a new era of prosperity and reconciliation.
More stories on Colombia coming soon…
Christmas has now come and gone, but if you were in the Czech Republic in early December, you wouldn’t have been able to miss it. On a trip backed by the Czech tourism ministry and in partnership with Honorary Consul George Novak, Global Atlanta visited to learn how the country lights up for advent.
We also spoke with the head of the national theater, but we didn’t stick only to a cultural script: Other interviewees included Czech President Miloš Zeman and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro.
Aside from investigating Ireland‘s economic recovery and catching the Christmas spirit in Dublin, Global Atlanta visited Leinster House, the parliament, during a December visit, meeting with Senator Susan O’Keeffe.
The senator from the county township of Sligo is heading up the planning for the country’s celebration this year, 2015, of the birth 150 years ago of W.B. Yeats, who often is acknowledged as the 20th century’s leading poet.
The celebration should be of great interest to many in Atlanta since Emory University houses the W.B. Yeats Foundation and has played an active role over the years in underscoring the importance of the poet’s contribution to Ireland’s cultural life and his influence around the world.
Global Atlanta also had a brief visit at the parliament’s bar with Michael Noonan, Ireland’s finance minister, who had just returned from a 10-day visit to China. Mr. Noonan said that Russia “was the country to watch in 2015.”
Additionally, Global Atlanta conducted interviews with the representatives in Ireland of the Georgia-based companies N3 LLC and NeoMed Inc., and at the headquarters of the Irish company Datalex plc, which has an office in Atlanta. More to come in subsequent stories.