The Japanese flag hangs in prominent position at the Millennium Gate, the site of a March 28 celebration marking 40 years of Japan-Georgia ties. 

In this week’s edition of Peachtree Passport, we look at massive industry meetings on logistics and technology, whether Georgia’s Japan celebration will rankle other communities, Coke’s year of the bottle and more. 

Reaching the Summits: Technology, Logistics Industries Hold Massive Yearly Meetings

Kaolin Paradise? 

No time this year to get to the Bahamas?  

Gianluca Fedelini of KaMin LLC has a proposition: For a reduced rate, he joked at this year’s Georgia Logistics Summit, he’ll let you take a swim in the crystal blue waters of central Georgia’s kaolin mines.  

Photos in his presentation at the summit’s export panel showed deep azure pools surrounded by white sand. But they weren’t beaches; they were man-made holes carved by heavy machinery to extract one of Georgia’s top export commodities. Used to coat paper, kaolin sales abroad were worth $500 million to the state in 2013. 

KaMin’s trucks drove a distance equivalent to six times to the moon and back on runs between Macon and the Georgia ports, from which it exported to 55 countries. In 2012 the company expanded its access to supplies by purchasing a majority stake in a Brazilian firm with a massive factory near kaolin deposits along the Amazon River.  

Mr. Fedelini spoke on a panel with representatives of pump maker GIW Industries and textile manufacturer 1888 Mills, along with Church’s Chicken, which has to solve the riddle of securing reliable chicken supplies each time it enters a new market. 

An import panel included Thai tuna canner Chicken of the Sea, which has a production facility in Georgia. 

Delia Victorino reportedly opened her presentation by affirming that, yes, Chicken of the Sea is actually fish, not fowl. She was, of course, referring to singer Jessica Simpson’s reality TV gaffe, in which the brand name apparently caused her to think she was partaking of poultry.

 

Travels of a Towel in the Global Economy 

Griffin, Ga.-based 1888 Mills was lauded by Walmart exec at the summit for keeping textile manufacturing at home. The company, named after the year of its founding, has been able to expand Griffin factories where it produces towels, largely thanks to Walmart’s plan to source $250 billion worth of products from the U.S. over the next decade. 

But far from taking a jingoistic view of manufacturing, 1888 has an extremely nuanced production and supply chain which prioritizes the U.S. operation but includes factories in Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West African nation of Ghana, where it claims to be a top employer of women.

 

International As Ever 

The Georgia Logistics Summit’s attendee list hasn’t always reflected the global reality of the industry it celebrates. That balance changed a bit this year, with a record 2,300 people registering to attend from 35 U.S. states and – at last count – from 11 countries.

Page Siplon, executive director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, said he hopes even more countries will be represented next year and that their delegates will consider opening branch or sales offices in the state as well as developing partnerships with local companies. 

The attendees included representatives from Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, said Mr. Siplon, who told us a day afterward that he still was combing through the roster.

 

Ted Turner: A Billion Bucks Isn’t Cool Anymore

On stage at the Georgia Technology Summit, Ted Turner showed no lasting effects from being hospitalized in Argentina a few weeks ago. 

He and Technology Association of Georgia President Tino Mantella shared some banter during a lengthy interview covering everything from nuclear nonproliferation to business advice. 

Mr. Turner, who was the featured guest at a much smaller summit 10 years earlier, this time addressed a record crowd with his characteristic humor. But he also had some poignant moments, advising the audience that the best thing they could do with their time and treasure is to give it away to those less fortunate.

With tech IPOs and multibillion-dollar deals popping left and right, turning 20-somethings into Internet tycoons, Mr. Turner quipped that “it’s really not even cool to have a billion dollars anymore.” 

“I beg to differ with you on that,” Mr. Mantella said, smiling. 

Mr. Turner didn’t miss a beat: “Well, I’ve done it, so I know.” 

He later waxed about his transition from shepherding the satellite and cable news revolutions to his reinvention as the founder of Ted’s Montana Grill. 

He said it’s easy to be an technology executive, but it’s much harder to be successful restaurateur. In its 10th year, Ted’s is finally turning the corner, he said. 

“We’re gonna make a killing now!” he exclaimed. 

 

Exchange Group Seeks Hosts for High Schoolers 

The Atlanta outfit of AFS Intercultural Programs is seeking host families for high school students. 

And by families, they mean pretty much anyone: “Whether you are in your 20s or 70s, have children or not, live alone or with a roommate, you are the perfect family for an AFS high school student!” 

Even if you choose to host, don’t worry about getting stuck with chauffeur duty: AFS has more than 60 local volunteers ready to make sure these visitors get where they need to be and have a great experience in Atlanta. 

For more, visit www.afsusa.org or contact Ruth Blackstock at 404-406-2917 or afsgeorgia@gmail.com.

 

Will There Be Fallout From Celebrating Japan?

Almost no other nation has been as influential on Georgia’s economy as Japan, which set up a consulate in Atlanta 40 years ago this year. 

But do $10.4 billion in investment and a longstanding political alliance cover over historical wounds or bridge cultural chasms? 

In its prominent position hanging beneath Atlantic Station’s Millennium Gate, a large flag representing the land of the rising sun is already subtly posing the question to passersby.

Some could see it as a jarring affront to those who lost family members in World War II, and it has already sparked a bit of moderate controversy. But organizers believe hundreds of attendees at a March 28 celebration and cherry-tree planting will prove that those opinions belong on the margins. 

We think dealing with these questions is healthy and that the flag serves a reminder of Japan’s status as a vital ally as the U.S. turns its diplomatic focus toward Asia, a region that is both economically vibrant and politically volatile. 

One question, however, is what reaction should be expected from other local Asian communities with which Georgia has been cultivating ties.

At a lecture last week in Atlanta on Japan’s foreign policy, experts vacillated on whether President Obama could play a role in mending the fallout over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead. The visit was condemned by leaders in Korea and China, both of which harbor wounds from Japanese colonization in the 20th century. 

Last month, the Georgia House of Representatives approved a resolution honoring Korean Consul General He-beom Kim. Included in the language was a reference to the “East Sea” as the body of water between Korea and Japan. 

Korean groups have mounted a campaign to promote what they believe to be its rightful name, calling on state education boards to reinstate the “East Sea” in geography texts alongside “Sea of Japan.” The movement has yet to gain traction in Georgia. 

The Atlantic Station celebration isn’t the only recognition Japan has received recently. 

Kennesaw State University last week marked the culmination of its Year of Japan series with a conference on humanitarian responses to crisis. Experts from local universities and all the way from Japan discussed the triple disaster that befell the country on March 11, 2011: an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

More coverage on that conference coming soon.

 

Coke to Celebrate ‘Year of the Bottle’

Without an Olympics or World Cup to celebrate, 2015 is going to be a year-long birthday celebration for Coca-Cola Co.’s 100-year-old contour bottle. 

Ted Ryan, who manages the company’s historical collections, said at a Kiwanis Club of Atlanta luncheon that in 1915 Coke wanted a design for the bottle that could be recognized if it was broken on the ground or felt in the dark.

It also wanted to stop copy-cat “pirate” companies, he added, that were selling other sodas, such as “celery soda.”

Patented in November of that year, the bottle has undergone certain revisions, but its contour shape has remained the same and become one of “most recognized icons in the world.”

 

Other Deals, Expansions

-Chinese bugs, take cover: Orkin opened a new franchise in the country

-A Canadian lumber company set up an office in Peachtree City 

-Novelis announced a new chief global strategist 

-Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget included $35 million more for port deepening

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...