The growth of Atlanta’s diplomatic community is a vital indicator of the city’s emergence as a world-class international city. Diplomatic offices are established in cities that have significant bilateral relations with their home countries, and in Atlanta’s case it also is the unofficial capital of a region that has seen a tremendous increase in international activity over the past several decades. The hosting of the 1996 Olympics created global awareness of the city, and the easy accessibility to and from the rest of the world through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has accelerated Atlanta’s economic connections globally.
Atlanta’s consular corps plays an important role in connecting the city, state and region to their respective countries. Diplomats help enhance our knowledge of their countries culturally, economically and politically, and help create opportunities for interaction for Atlanta and Georgia citizens in these areas.
For example, a foreign consulate often attracts delegations led by political leaders who are accompanied by important business executives. This enables Georgians who want to establish business ties in those countries to discuss opportunities for trade, investment and other forms of commercial activities with the participants in these delegations. The political leaders will also visit with Atlanta companies who have operations in their countries, or those companies who are desired investors for their countries. Global companies such as Coca-Cola Co., United Parcel Service Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. are often visited by these international dignitaries who are connected through the Atlanta-based diplomatic representative.
Having a diplomatic office also increases the desirability of Atlanta and Georgia as a location for companies to establish operations here, as they know they have official government representation. Diplomatic officials are usually present at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new facilities, and these officials are also often present at meetings where these new companies are officially introduced to political and government officials in the city and state.
When a new consulate opens, the opportunities for trade with that country increase dramatically. The Brazilian consulate in Atlanta is helping to create ties with that country’s huge market opportunities. That is why the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Global Commerce Council has as one of its top strategic objectives to increase the number of consulates in Atlanta so that the city and state can attract more companies here and also enable more access for companies here in those countries.
Economic development officials also benefit from having consular offices in Atlanta and build ties between their communities and those of the consular representatives’ countries. “Georgia’s International VIP Tour allows the state to strategically emphasize the business, cultural, tourism and educational assets that are uniquely Georgia,” says Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, according to the official press release. “The diplomatic corps will have an opportunity to leverage this tour to attain a greater understanding of the importance of this region to the companies in the countries they represent.”
Consular representatives can also be of tremendous assistance to companies seeking to expand operations into their countries. They can provide information, resources and contacts that will enable companies to have the right connections when they visit these countries to evaluate the potential for their business success there.
Diplomatic offices can even be important in acquiring professional athletes. When the Braves were in discussions with Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, their ownership and management met with the Japanese consul-general to discuss the presence of the Japanese business community here so they could assure Kawakami that he would be in a supportive environment in Atlanta.
Diplomats also help to bring cultural programs to Atlanta and the region. Many of the consulates have cultural attaches who are responsible for developing cultural programs and helping to promote these activities in Georgia. Diplomatic officials often help host receptions for these visiting cultural performers and help to elevate awareness of these cultural connections to the city.
For businesses and individuals seeking to make contact with diplomatic officials, the Georgia Council for International Visitors‘ International Consular Ball is the premier annual event to attend. GCIV is a community-based, non-governmental organization founded in 1962 to build mutual understanding between Georgians and citizens from all over the globe. GCIV believes that increased personal and professional cooperation among global professionals will lead to a more prosperous and peaceful world.
Each year GCIV arranges professional programs, cultural orientations and dinner hospitality for hundreds of participants in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program and other professional and educational exchange initiatives. Participants in these programs are prominent individuals and future world leaders.
This year’s 29th annual International Consular Ball will take place on Friday, April 30, 2010, at the Atlanta History Center. The International Consular Ball provides an opportunity for Georgia’s business and civic communities to join GCIV in honoring the members of the Consular Corps for their role in building valuable relationships between our region and the world. Attendees of the ball have the opportunity to meet representatives of Georgia’s 63 consular offices.
For more information on attending or sponsoring the ball, go to www.gciv.org. We look forward to seeing many of GlobalAtlanta’s readers on April 30th!
By Shell Stuart, executive director, Georgia Council for International Visitors, and Mark Pierson, board member.