Georgia is ready to take advantage of economic development opportunities with Russia arising from a new nonstop flight between Atlanta and Moscow, Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Craig Lesser told GlobalAtlanta.
“We're seeking every opportunity to display [Georgia's] wares, encourage investment here and attract tourists,” Mr. Lesser said during an interview at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport prior to Delta Air Lines Inc.'s inaugural flight. “We are leveraging opportunities from this flight that may not otherwise be available.”
Mr. Lesser was one of eight Georgia delegates on the flight that left Atlanta on June 1. The group is scheduled to visit with Russian companies and government representatives to promote Georgia as a trade and tourism gateway to the United States, as well as to learn about economic opportunities available in Russia.
“There's a market both ways for this,” Mr. Lesser said, referring to business opportunities available in Russia for Georgia businesses, and vice versa. The Atlanta-Moscow flight will also “open doors” to carry out the department's greater strategy of promoting Georgia as an international business center and Atlanta's image as a global cosmopolitan city, Mr. Lesser said.
Georgia companies are increasingly doing business with Russia in the fields of agriculture and machinery, Mr. Lesser said. Georgia is 18th among U.S. states in exports to Russia, with agricultural machinery, auto parts and poultry being prominent export products. He encouraged Georgia companies doing business there [or in any other country] to notify the department so it can offer any trade services needed to increase firms' success overseas.
Mr. Lesser mentioned having a Georgia trade office in Moscow and/or a Russian consular office in Atlanta as good ideas for deepening the relationship. He also noted that some 50,000 Russians live in Georgia.
In the Russian capital of Moscow, the Georgia delegation will meet with Russian presidential aides and members of the Duma, Russia's legislature, to discuss ways to grow the relationship between the state and Russia. They are also scheduled to visit the Coca-Cola Co.'s Moscow plant, tour the city and see the famed Bolshoi Theatre presentation of the "Götterdämmerung" opera by Richard Wagner.
In addition to Mr. Lesser, Georgia participants on the trip to Moscow included Craig Barrs, vice president of community and economic development at Georgia Power Co.; Chris Clark, deputy commissioner for global commerce at the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Donald Dalton, president of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association;
Hans J. Gant, senior vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute; Richard Lawry, co-founder, chairman and partner of EGL Holdings, Inc.;
Matthew T. Echols, director of Coca-Cola's state government relations department and Joanne Walter, president of WalterPan LLC and founder of EcoInvestTM LLC.
The group plans to return to Atlanta on Sunday, June 5, but Mr. Lesser will return a few days later after stopping in Metz, France, to discuss developing a state relationship with the Georgia Institute of Technology's Lorraine, France, campus.
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