Konrad Rzasa and Anna Alford, founders of the Atlanta Polish Chamber

Two PolishAtlantans have started a chamber of commerce they hope will inject new energy into the growing business and cultural relationship between their native country and adopted home in the United States.

Anna Alford and Konrad Rzasa this year founded the Atlanta Polish Chamber to use their complementary experience in international business to facilitate the exchange of people and investment between Poland and Georgia.

Growing up in a small town near Stawola Wola in southeastern Poland, Ms. Alford had an early interest in learning English and coming to the U.S., she told GlobalAtlanta.

She came to Atlanta as part of the Au Pair in America program in 2001, staying with a host family and gaining an English as a Second Language certificate from Kennesaw State University.

After returning to Poland briefly, she transferred to Atlanta in 2004 to study political science at Georgia State University. The 29-year-old now works as a project analyst with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at GSU.

Mr. Rzasa also arrived in the U.S. as an exchange student and elected to stay and graduate from an American university. After holding various jobs in the information technology industry, he started his own digital marketing firm, Vayu Media, three years ago.

The new chamber opens as trade between Georgia and Poland is on the upswing. Georgia exported more products based on dollar value to Poland than any other U.S. state in the first half of 2011, an increase of almost 14 percent from the same period last year.

However, Ms. Alford and Mr. Rzasa both say the relationship could be stronger.

“Poland and Georgia haven’t been marketed properly,” Mr. Rzasa said. Ms. Alford agreed that most Poles are unaware of the ease of doing business in Georgia or the state’s competitive tax environment, while Poland still struggles to shed the image of an outdated communist society.

The pair said their chamber is particularly well-suited to change these misperceptions. They say they represent new, younger generation of Poles eagerly embracing Western-style capitalism and building Poland into an increasingly significant economic player in Europe.

Chamber member Alicja Drolet agreed. Ms. Drolet, a Poland native and colleague of Ms. Alford at the Georgia economic development department, explained that the older and younger generations of Polish-born professionals in the area haven’t connected well enough.

But the new chamber isn’t just playing to young professionals. In addition to building up its online profile, the organization has been hosting monthly social events around town and is helping arrange upcoming business events.

After connecting with the Polish Embassy earlier this year, the chamber has worked with embassy and the Georgia Department of Economic Development to plan an Oct. 24 conference at the Georgia Institute of Technology focused on Poland’s presidency of the European Commission. Robert Kupiecki, Poland’s ambassador to the U.S., is slated to attend.

Delegations of companies in a variety of sectors led by the Mazovia Development Agency and the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency will use the occasion to get acquainted with Georgia.

Though the newest, the Atlanta Polish Chamber isn’t the only one in town. The Polish-American Chamber of Commerce Southeast has been responsible for hosting many Polish delegations during the past 17 years. In April it helped organize a reception at City Hall during which Atlanta attorney Lawrence Ashe was installed as Poland’s honorary consul in Georgia.

The chamber is participating in the Atlanta World Showcase on Oct. 20 and is planning a program on energy and transition in Poland for November, said Witold Zabinski, its long-time president.

Still, the new chamber hopes to provide a long-term platform to bring together entrepreneurs and investors to identify opportunities for collaboration.

“It’s really about matching people together,” Ms. Alford said.

For more information on the Atlanta Polish Chamber, visit www.paccatlanta.org.

To register for the Oct. 24 event or for more information about business matchmaking opportunities, click here.

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...