Gov. Sonny Perdue’s two week, business promotion tour of Europe in June took place at a politically critical time in several countries he visited, and should have positive effects for Georgia’s economy over the next several years, according to the state’s European trade representatives.

“It is perceived in a very positive way every time a governor comes by,” Antje Abshoff, managing director of Georgia’s European offices who is based in Munich, Germany, told GlobalAtlanta in a telephone interview. “This trip will have an impact in the next 12 to 24 months and maybe beyond.”

Ms. Abshoff, who opened the Munich office in 2006, said that the governor was introduced to representatives of companies in what she termed as “strategic prospects” in the fields such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

She added that the governor connected positively with the Czech Republic’s president, Vaclav Klaus, and Edmund Stoiber, the minister president of Bavaria, Germany’s largest state where Munich is located.
Mike Harling, who is director of the state’s office for the United Kingdom and Ireland, said that the governor’s visit enabled him to develop new contacts, especially in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

He said that Ireland’s economic growth over the past decade has made that country a much more important business partner for Georgia in recent years. While in Dublin, Ireland, Mr. Perdue met Bertie Ahern, the prime minister who had just been re-elected the week before.

Mr. Harling said that meeting high-level dignitaries such as Mr. Ahern and other officials with responsibilities for economic development helped him amass contacts that he could call at a later date.

This year’s visit by Mr. Perdue also was special, according to Mr. Harling, because the governor met in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, with the Rev. Ian Paisley, first minister, and Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister.

The Georgia delegation was the first high-level trade mission to meet with these political leaders who have been the fiercest enemies, but joined together in a new government on May 8 marking a cooling in the hostilities between sectarian groups.

The elections of France’s new president, Nicholas Sarkozy, several weeks before Mr. Perdue’s visit and the announcement of the retirement of former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair added to the excitement of the trip, both state representatives said.
But in the final analysis, they added, what counts on such a trip is the projection of Georgia’s advantages as a business location.

“They want to know how quickly product can be shipped around the U.S. from Georgia and at what cost,” said Mr. Harling. “They are interested in just how competitive Georgia is compared to other states.”

Ms. Abshoff said that visits to the headquarters of companies with subsidiaries in Georgia provides an awareness that the state appreciates their investments and is interested in what ways it can be of assistance.

Aside from the U.K. and Ireland, she said that the state will continue to be actively focused on developing ties with Belgium, France, Germany, Northern Italy and Scandanavian countries as well as elsewhere on the continent when appropriate opportunities arise.

“We had some very good announcements during the trip,” she said. “And we expect others very soon.”

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