Atlanta-based NetBank, a savings bank that operates exclusively online, impressed members of a Russian delegation visiting from Tomsk, who believe that online financial services could be very important for developing their country, a spokesman for the group said.

      The group of community leaders from the western Siberia region was hosted by the Georgia Council for International Visitors, April 12-14, on a tour of several major U.S. cities to learn about attracting new investment. On their tour of Atlanta, the delegates spoke with representatives of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Georgia-Pacific Corp., and NetBank.

      NetBank’s internet bank model could help financial services companies reach the 50 percent of Tomsk’s population of 1 million that lives outside of its urban center, said Victor Pushnykh of Tomsk Polytechnic University.

      “Our area has a quickly growing Internet industry already,” said Dr. Pushnykh. “Our infrastructure is very good and there are many computers available in public areas.”

      Strong gas, oil and timber industries have already attracted U.S. and European investment, he said, but there is great potential in Tomsk’s technology and pharmaceutical industries.

      The $25 million domestic pharmaceutical sector needs to be brought up to international standards so it can grow, said Dr. Pushnykh.

      Tomsk, which is home to six universities, most dating back to the 19th century and with excellent engineering programs, is also looking to develop ties with U.S. universities, especially those with MBA programs, he said.

      For more information, call Meridian International Center, which organized the tour with the U.S. State Department, at (800) 424-2974.