Yelena Epova recently returned to Atlanta after a family visit to her native Russia convinced that Georgia companies should consider investing there, especially in her home town of St. Petersburg, despite recent terrorist events in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

Ms. Epova, a partner with the Atlanta accounting and consulting firm Habif, Arogeti and Wynne LLP, told GlobalAtlanta that she felt the Russian educational system continued to graduate “bright, well-educated students.”

During her trip this summer, she was encouraged to see that the academic standards at St. Petersburg State Polytech University remained as high as they had been when the university was Leningrad Polytech University during the Soviet era.

“The next generation of students understand that they must study hard in order to be successful,” she said. “And they now have a better business sense and are more entrepreneurial. They also have an excellent grasp of the English language.”

She also said that on her trip she found St. Petersburg to be less expensive than Moscow and that European companies have made substantial investments in the city.

“We had some Scandinavian companies investing in construction and the hotel business,” she recalled. “But there were no private companies at the time and it was difficult doing business with the Russian government.”

In addition, she recalled that before emigrating to Atlanta in 1989 the Soviet government owned all the housing, but now there were both apartments and houses that had been developed and converted for private ownership.

She also said that she was surprised by the degree to which Russian students and businesspeople have adopted the latest technology. While traveling on a high-speed train between St. Petersburg and Moscow, she noticed that the business travelers all seemed to be using the latest models of personal digital assistants.

Ms. Epova came to Atlanta because an uncle and his family already were established here. She had earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in Russia, but realized that she didn’t want to spend her life as an engineer.

“I realized at the end of my studies in Russia that I did not like engineering very much,” she said. “I was always good with math, problem solving and had good business sense so my uncle suggested accounting.”

Ms. Epova said she represents several U.S. clients with research and development facilities in Russia, as well as Russian business executives who have invested in the U.S.

At Habif, Arogeti and Wynne she serves clients in the firm’s manufacturing, distribution and technology group with an emphasis on international tax matters. She specializes in advising domestic and international companies on international tax issues and tax planning strategies regarding inbound and outbound operations.

Additionally, she works with companies in addressing their transfer pricing issues, developing policies and performing transfer pricing studies. She also assists clients with domestic tax issues by providing tax planning and compliance services.

To learn more about Habif, Arogeti and Wynne got to or call (404) 898-7431.