Georgia companies participating in a May 2-10 trade mission to the Czech Republic will find a thriving telecommunications industry in addition to other highly skilled labor markets, according to Weston Stacey, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague, Czech Republic.

Mr. Stacey spoke about the Czech business climate during an April 12 briefing at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is planning the nine-day trade mission to the country in conjunction with the start of a nonstop Delta Air Lines Inc. flight between Atlanta and Prague, which begins May 2. The briefing was an effort to drum up support for the mission and increase Georgians’ awareness of business opportunities in the Czech Republic.

Mr. Stacey, an Atlanta native now living in Prague, was enthusiastic about the Czech Republic’s technology-oriented skilled labor that is attracting an increasing number of venture capitalists and foreign investors, he said.

Three major European telecom companies – Telefonica SA, T-Mobile and Vodafone have a major presence there, which Mr. Stacey says is driving cutting-edge innovation.

“The next generation of telecommunications is being developed in the Czech Republic,” he said. “Nowhere else in Europe do [the three companies] have such a significant market segment. There is intense competition to come out with the next new product,” Mr. Stacey told GlobalAtlanta after the meeting.

Other research-focused industries that are attracting foreign investors to the country are electronics, pharmaceuticals and software development, according to Bob Frelich, director of the Chicago office of CzechInvest, who was also at the meeting.

According to the Czech commercial offices in the U.S, the Czech Republic secured $11.4 billion in foreign direct investment in 2006- more than any other European Union nation. About 60 percent of the American investments announced in the Czech Republic that year were in the R&D sector, according to CzechInvest, the Czech goverment’s investment promotion arm.

But the country is also a hub for automotive components manufacturing, and while few Czech auto companies would be ready to invest in the United States, synergies do exist between those manufacturers and ones in the Southeast U.S., according to Mr. Stacey, who visited Birmingham, Ala., after his meeting in Atlanta.

He said that the American chamber in Prague was exploring ways Southeastern auto components manufacturers could work with like companies in the Czech Republic.

In addition to strong manufacturing and R&D sectors, the country’s developed logistics industry and its location in Central Europe make it a viable destination for U.S. companies that want to distribute their products to Western, Central and Eastern Europe, said Mr. Stacey.

A developed highway system has also helped to grow Czech cities outside of Prague, the country’s capital and most populous city. Now, Ostrava, located at the country’s eastern border near Poland, and Brno, located further south near Austria and Slovakia, are viable cities for foreign investment, according to Mr. Frelich of CzechInvest.

Charged with getting U.S. companies to locate in the Czech Republic, CzechInvest has an office located in Silicon Valley, Calif., in addition to Chicago.

But with Delta soon to offer non-stop service to Prague from Atlanta, Mr. Frelich questioned how long a CzechInvest office would remain in Chicago, which does not have a direct flight to the country.

“The weather is much nicer in Atlanta,” Mr. Frelich said, considering moving the Chicago office to Atlanta after he was prompted by a GlobalAtlanta question.

In addition to Mr. Frelich and Mr. Stacey, Martin Dvorak, commercial attaché at the Czech Embassy in Washington and George Novak, Czech honorary consul in Atlanta, also attended the Metro chamber’s business briefing.

The cost to attend the upcoming trade mission is about $3,000 including coach airfare, accommodations and ground transportation in the country.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
Ric Hubler, Global Commerce Division – (404) 586-8455

American Chamber of Commerce in Prague – Weston Stacey

CzechInvest, Chicago – Bob Frelich