Today more than ever, Savannah is emerging as a leader in the global marketplace. Home of the fastest growing and fourth largest port in the United States, international advanced manufacturing companies are increasingly interested in Coastal Georgia due to the ports, the size of the U.S. market and strength of foreign currencies.
It’s no accident that Savannah is becoming more visible on the international stage. In addition to the area’s highly visible global operations like Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., JCB Americas, and the Georgia Ports Authority, just to name a few, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), in tandem with a similar city of Savannah initiative, is concentrating on delivering the message and appeal of our community to a global audience.
So far the efforts are paying off. SEDA and its partners have worked a total of 138 projects resulting in 78 client visits and ultimately 10 location announcements in 2009.
It is significant that 20 percent of all projects worked in 2009 were foreign based, the most notable being Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, which will invest more than $325 million and create 500 new jobs.
Projects of this magnitude do not occur often, particularly in this economy, which is why Trade & Industry Development magazine recognized it as one of the Top 15 Corporate Investments in the nation last year.
SEDA also saw successes with other international ties including CAP Barbell Inc., DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Mitsui-SokoUSA Inc., Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and Kerry Ingredients and Flavours.
To spread the message to an international audience, SEDA and city representatives have traveled to conferences and meetings in Canada, Japan, Sweden and Austria, and they are collaborating to recruit a clean energy conference.
In conjunction with the Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, SEDA and the city have committed $125,000 of seed money to bring the conference to Savannah in 2011.
In an effort to experience a similar conference, representatives from Savannah, led by Mayor Otis Johnson and Steve Green, chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, traveled to Wels, Austria, to participate in Europe’s largest international renewable energy conference, World Sustainable Energy Days.
There, they promoted southeast Georgia as a hub for converting pine trees and other biomass into wood pellets, which are being sought by European coal plants under international mandates to reduce coal use.
Last fall, a delegation traveled to Savannah’s sister city Vaxjo, Sweden, to participate in a three-day, eco-building seminar focused on the reduction of energy use in buildings and how energy efficient buildings can be a driving force for regional development.
Savannah is using some of the geothermal technology practices taught at the conference in a new affordable housing development under construction.
The trip to Sweden came a year after Savannah signed a memorandum of agreement with Vaxjo officials during their visit to Savannah for the Swedish American Entrepreneurial Days.
Savannah and Chatham County together have hosted numerous other representatives from Europe, Asia and South America.
In March, SEDA and the Georgia Department of Economic Development hosted the International VIP tour. By participating in tours like this one, SEDA strategically positions Savannah and Chatham County to not only maintain and grow existing international businesses and industries but to secure new projects for the city.
Top diplomats representing 20 countries were on the tour including representatives from Albania, Argentina, Bahamas, Denmark, France,Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mali, Philippines, Quebec, Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
In June, the Savannah City Council approved an ordinance creating the Greater Savannah International Alliance, an appointed body tasked with coordinating local international economic development efforts and fostering connections among the international community already based in Savannah.
The Savannah International Task Force recommended the creation of the alliance, an initiative that SEDA has actively supported since the task force was created in November 2009.
And this fall, Mr. Johnson will head to China with leaders from Hinesville and Brunswick as part of the sister city relationship the coastal communities have with cities in the Jiangxi Province. The Jiangxi government has targeted Georgia as a potential landing point for companies looking to expand in the U.S. market.
Craig Lesser, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development and currently managing partner of the Pendleton Consulting Group, is acting as a commercial ambassador on behalf of Savannah during his travels abroad. He accompanied Mr. Johnson and Mr. Green to the clean energy conference in Wels, Austria. He also is scheduled go with Mr. Johnson to Jiangxi Province in China this fall. To reach Mr. Lesser send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 446-4174.
Katie Dye is director of marketing and public relations at the Savannah Economic Development Authority. To reach Ms. Dye call (800) 673-7388 or send an email to email@example.com