The state of Georgia has given foreign visitors a peek at its biotechnology assets ahead of a May conference that will turn the eyes of the entire bio world to Atlanta.

The BIO 2009 International Convention will bring 16,000-20,000 people from about 70 countries to the Georgia capital May 18-21.

The conference’s motto aims at promoting life sciences to “feed, fuel and heal the world.” 

As a preview, the state hosted tours in January and February to give economic development officials, scientists and reporters from around the globe a glimpse of what the state has to offer.

They came from near and far, about 16 on the second trip and around 10 on the first.  The southern German state of Bavaria sent representatives for both trips. Not to be outdone, the German cities of Saxony and Berlin sent officials from their respective bioscience parks.

Asia was well represented on the two tours as well. A journalist from South Korea, bioscience officials from China’s Shandong province and chamber of commerce from Osaka, Japan, made the journey.

Consular representatives, reporters and trade officials from across the U.S., Canada and Europe also visited.

Georgia markets its advantages by advertising and participating in conferences abroad, but there’s nothing like being “face-to-face, spending time together for three or four days to get to know people,” Greg Torre, director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Small Business and Innovation division.

Mr. Torre said the relationships built on the tours could result in investment in Georgia during or beyond the massive conference at the Georgia World Congress Center in May.

“It’s a ready-made opportunity for us to do some selling here,” he said.  “That’s what it boils down to.”

Georgia officials worked in conjunction with local organizations and universities to make the tours possible and to provide some personalized contacts for delegates.

Some of the universities visited are located inside an area stretching from Atlanta to Athens that Georgia has branded the “Innovation Crescent.” The crescent is home to a network of educational institutions and businesses focused on life sciences.

Georgia has some 300 companies involved in biotechnology, according to a database compiled by GeorgiaBio, an economic development organization that focuses on helping building an environment for life sciences companies to thrive in Georgia.

A big part of that ecosystem is the state’s wealth of universities and associated research opportunities. The foreign visitors were amazed at how the schools worked together, and how the private sector meshed with the innovation happening in the universities.

“I think that’s what a lot of them walked away very impressed with, that we are some very unique entities working together,” Mr. Torre said.

The state is looking at whether it has enough time to put together another familiarization trip before May 18. 

The Bio International Convention was held last June in San Diego. Georgia set up a pavilion to promote its assets. 

There, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that Atlanta had been selected as the site of the National Health Museum, crowning its achievements in biotechnology.

At that time, accounting firm Ernst & Young rated Georgia 7th in its list comparing the bioscience sectors of U.S. states.

For more information about this year’s convention, click here

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...