Using his background in marketing, Indonesia‘s new consul general to the Southeast U.S. is looking for new ways to position the world’s fourth largest country in the region where he’ll spend the next three years.
Based in Houston, Andre Omer Siregar made his first visit Atlanta, eyeing potential partnerships with the business community and ways to deepen intergovernmental partnerships.
Mr. Siregar and his team spent time with Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Katie Kirkpatrick and Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce CEO Nick Masino during a quick Friday trip that also included meetings with members of the Indonesian diaspora.
The consul general retains a keen desire to raise the investment profile of his country, which despite having a population of more than a quarter-billion and being situated at the crossroads of ASEAN, the world’s fastest-growing bloc — ranks frustratingly low in the American consciousness.
His plan to fight ignorance? Lead with business, and follow with government engagement.
“If we get onto their radar, maybe it will be of interest to read about us,” he told Global Atlanta in an interview, noting that Indonesia stands to fall behind other Asian competitors already investing heavily here. “There is a strong fusion here, and we would be remiss if we didn’t catch up.”
The Indonesian foreign ministry has considered putting a consulate or honorary consulate in Atlanta, he said. At the very least, Mr. Siregar plans on the Houston consular staff spending more time in a state he considers strategic.
“There are organizational matters, but the substance is still there: We want to amplify the strength of Georgia by being more present here,” he said, noting that the effort must go both ways: Indonesians often flock to American coasts, forgetting about the South when it comes to investment opportunities.
Indonesia has undertaken a multi-front effort to deepen engagement with the United States. Its government has ramped up scholarships for Indonesian students to attend American colleges. Amid the U.S. trade war with China, Indonesia put forth sectors where it believes it can replace Chinese imports in U.S. supply chains — notably in apparel, rubber products, footwear and more. Indonesia has long been a key supplier of metals like tin, aluminum and nickel, the latter being an essential element of electric vehicle batteries.
For Mr. Siregar, who worked with Procter & Gamble before joining the diplomatic corps, part of the trip’s motive was to take inventory of assets that could be helpful to his country’s ongoing pitch.
Global Atlanta met with the consul general at the offices of AccuSentry in Cobb County. The company produces custom imaging systems that help manufacturers detect defects in real time, reducing waste on high-speed production lines and ultimately saving money.
Wei Siong Tan, the company’s founder and president, welcomed Mr. Siregar into a facility originally used to train pilots on the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft.
Mr. Tan shared with the consul general how he as an Indonesian-born computer engineer at Georgia Tech worked his way onto a project researching ballistic missile defense systems, earned his Ph.D., then commercialized aspects of the imaging software in a new sector. AccuSentry systems are now deployed at 2,000-plus factories in more than 40 countries. Coming full circle, the company opened a Jakarta office in 2017.
Mr. Siregar believes featuring such “strategic, visionary” Indonesians can change the narrative and inspire collaboration.
With the national government in Indonesia incentivizing development in the country’s provinces, Mr. Siregar has explored the idea of using sister cities or states to open doors — a tactic he has seen work in previous posts like Darwin, Australia.
Ceremonial agreements between governments can help, but Indonesia is just a short jaunt from Australia. It faces more of a knowledge gap in faraway Georgia, where previous efforts to recruit business delegations have fallen short.
“It is a nice slogan, but it is a business opportunity that has been lost out, foregone,” he said.
Mr. Siregar also Atlanta’s technology sector, especially in fintech, will partner with Indonesia’s fast-growing startup scene. Nine Indonesian startups participated in this year’s virtual South by South West festival in Austin, Texas, and he’d like to see such showcases target Georgia.
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