Turkey’s honorary consul general in Georgia announced at a recent briefing on Turkey that one of the top items on her agenda is promoting trade between Turkey and Georgia.

Mona Diamond, the first woman appointed to represent Turkey as an honorary consul in the state, told an audience at the Southern Center for International Studies that she is dedicated not only to cultural and diplomatic ties, but to business relationships as well.

“One of the great honors I have is to promote trade between Georgia, America and Turkey, and we have started in the right direction,” she said to a gallery of young professionals who had come to hear a lecture on party politics and recent elections in Turkey by Ali Carkoglu, a visiting professor to Emory University from Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.

If “World City” magazine’s 2007 Georgia Trade Numbers issue is any indication, Ms. Diamond’s dedication to trade couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

According to the publication, which was sponsored by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Turkey’s direct trade with Georgia increased 52.3 percent in 2006, helping Turkey make the list of Georgia’s top 25 trade partners.

The drastic increase was the result of Georgia’s place in the Turkish government’s strategy to increase trade volume from $10 to $20 billion in six U.S. states over three years, according to Feryal Hendricks, a management consultant for her company, Hendricks & Associates, who also serves as a voluntary strategic advisor for Ms. Diamond.

Ms. Diamond, who organized Mr. Carkoglu’s visit as part of Emory’s Turkish Lecture Series, invited those young professionals interested in doing business in Turkey to give her their business cards. If they did so, she would invite them to a luncheon on Nov. 12 featuring Murat Yalcintas, president of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, an organization Ms. Hendricks said is one of the largest chambers in the world with about 350,000 members.
“We’re going to have a bridge to help you in any fashion to do business in Turkey,” she said, adding that she is also working with Georgia and Atlanta officials to establish a business exchange that will create opportunities for Turkish and Georgian businesswomen.

Ms. Hendricks told GlobalAtlanta in a telephone interview that although the initiative is just in planning and brainstorming stages, it has the potential to help businesswomen dynamically impact the economies in Georgia and Turkey.

“What we’ve found is that in a country like Turkey, women have made great progress, but maybe not as much as here,” said Ms. Hendricks, who called herself a true Turkish-American because she lived in Istanbul for five years and both of her parents were born in Turkey. “We are driven by a strong desire to foster cross-cultural business understanding and to encourage both American and Turkish women to do business together.”

A women’s business conference in Istanbul is in the works so they can “experience the culture, meet businesswomen and bring like and like together,” Ms. Hendricks added.

Ms. Diamond and Ms. Hendricks’ ambitious economic goals come at a time when the Turkish community’s cultural presence in Atlanta has reached a level of high visibility.

On Sept. 9, a Turkish Festival sponsored by Atlanta’s Istanbul Center for Culture and Dialogue was held in Piedmont Park, gaining media coverage from CNN. Ayhan Korucu, president of the fledgling Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast United States was featured in an interview about what it means to be a Turkish-American.

The Turkish-American Cultural Association of Georgia, which Ms. Hendricks said is the oldest Turkish organization in Georgia, is looking forward to a Turkish Film Festival at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which comes on the heels of a recent Turkish art exhibit.

Mazlum Kosma, the president of the cultural association, told GlobalAtlanta that next month his organization will be celebrating the 84th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey, and Mr. Korucu as well as Ms. Hendricks spoke of a thriving Turkish university student population in Georgia.

Utku Er, the vice chairperson for the young professionals program at the Southern Center and a board member of the cultural association, summed up the growing awareness about Turkey in Georgia at his introductory remarks at the briefing.

“Every place I walk into, someone else has either heard of Turkey or is going to Turkey,” said Mr. Er, who himself is of Turkish origin.

Ms. Diamond estimates that about 5,000 people of Turkish descent live in the greater Atlanta area. Because of this substantial population, Turkey-focused organizations work continually to promote Turkey’s image in Georgia.

“It’s exciting that there’s an opportunity to expand that understanding. With the possibility of joining the European Union, more Americans will be looking to do business with Turkey,” said Ms. Hendricks.

Ms. Diamond, as an extension of her consular duties , also serves as chairperson of the American Turkish Friendship Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting better relations between the U.S. and Turkey through educational, economic and humanitarian exchanges.
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Hendricks & Associates – Feryal Hendricks, management consultant 678.778.8710