Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week embarked on his second international mission in as many months, stopping in the nation of Georgia to check in on National Guard troops stationed there before heading to the Paris Air Show.
The governor’s office said the mission to the eponymous country was meant to shore up the state’s military partnership there. In 2008, just after Georgia declared intentions to join NATO, the country saw Russia carve off key territories with incursions similar to those that preceded its all-out war in Ukraine.
The France leg of Mr. Kemp’s trip is aimed at thanking existing aerospace investors and pitching to new ones at the industry’s biggest annual trade show. Aerospace is the state of Georgia’s top export sector and one of its top employers, with firms like Delta, Gulfstream and Lockheed Martin providing tens of thousands of jobs across the state.
State Partnership Program
Georgia’s National Guard has been partnered with the nation of Georgia’s military since 1994 through the State Partnership Program, a Department of Defense initiative launched in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s fall to engage with former bloc countries.
The goal remains to deepen relationships in strategic parts of the world, using military engagements as the starting point for broader societal connections meant to advance U.S. foreign policy goals.
The program is administered by U.S. geographical Combatant Commands around the world, including EUCOM in Europe, where many Central and Eastern European nations have been paired up with National Guards across the U.S.
Georgia is the only state linked with the nation of Georgia. Overall, the SPP includes 88 partnerships in 100 nations. (The state of Georgia also has a partnership with Argentina that launched in 2016.)
“I’m looking forward to visiting the brave National Guardsmen stationed in the country of Georgia as we meet with officials in that country to reinforce our commitment to our partnership with their military,” Mr. Kemp said in a news release before departure. ”That partnership has endured for over 28 years, as we remain a friend and ally to freedom-loving people around the world.”
Much like his recent Israel trip, the governor’s agenda included sit-downs with Georgia’s top political leaders, as well as a briefing from the second in command at the U.S. embassy.
Mr. Kemp met with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, a former executive elected in 2021 to serve for the second term in the role, his first spanning 2013-15.
The governor also met with Minister of Defense Juansher Burchuladze and presented him with the state’s Oglethorpe Award.
Mr. Kemp was accompanied throughout by Major Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., adjutant general of the state of Georgia Department of Defense.
“Our teammates from the Country of Georgia have fought shoulder to shoulder with us since 9/11. We are very excited about taking our partnership to the next level under Governor Kemp’s leadership.” Mr. Carden said in a news release. The group also visited a humanitarian shelter built in partnership with Georgia National Guard troops.
Reflecting the governor’s desire to sell the state as a business destination, the governor’s delegation also included members of the state’s economic development department, including Commissioner Pat Wilson and Deputy Commissioner for Trade Mary Waters
Asked about the economic impacts of a visit to the country of 4 million people, a Kemp spokesman said the governor sees an overlap between business and security.
“The Republic of Georgia and State of Georgia have not just an economic relationship but also a strategic relationship,” a Kemp spokesperson told Global Atlanta. “We currently have an advisory presence via the Georgia National Guard and will soon be growing that presence to assist the Georgian military with training.”
The trip came just over a week after Mr. Kemp met in Atlanta with Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. David Zalkaliani.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is a sister city of Atlanta. Attorney John Hall of Hall Booth Smith P.C. is the honorary consul of the nation of Georgia here in the state.
Paris Airshow Engagements
In France, the governor touted the state’s top business rating while visiting booths and checking out the latest technologies from industry leaders.
Posts on his Twitter feed show Mr. Kemp sitting in the Midnight air taxi that Archer Aviation plans to build at a $118 million Georgia factory and spending time in the cockpit of a Marietta-built Lockheed Martin C-130 cargo plane.
He also met with Belgium’s Solvay, which provides plastics for the industry and employs about a thousand people in Georgia, and checked out the luxurious interior of a Gulfstream jet on display.
Mr. Kemp announced Tuesday from the air show that Pratt & Whitney, which for many years has manufactured engines in Columbus, will spent $206 million to expand its Muscogee County plant, creating 400 new jobs. The Raytheon (RTX)-owned company is an engine supplier to Brazil‘s Embraer and France‘s Airbus, along with U.S. F-series fighter jets.
Georgia’s aerospace exports topped $9.2 billion in 2022.