Introduce Georgia to Poland

Four of the top five investor nations in Georgia are from northwestern Europe, with Germany leading the pack. The Metro Atlanta Chamber, with state and local partners, has traditionally focused much of its foreign direct investment recruitment effort on this region.

We’re not unique in this regard. Competing states cover Germany for the same reason. We often find our competitors pitching themselves at the same seminars or calling the same prospects.

While we need to maintain that focus, we are also pursuing new opportunities and differentiating ourselves. Germany’s eastern neighbors have been largely overlooked in the past, but they have emerged as a submarket that warrants our attention.

Companies with an Austrian headquarters address, for example, increasingly populate our “pipeline” of new investment projects. Last month, a Czech company opened in Hall County. Poland, too, has tremendous potential to grow trade and investment. Parts of this foundation are already in place.

Georgia tops all other states in exports to Poland — $426 million in 2012, a 24-percent increase over last year. Some Atlanta companies with a presence in Poland include NCR, Exide Technologies and Newell Rubbermaid. UPS has 2,200 employees there and an operations center in Wrocław. Poland established an honorary consulate in Atlanta in 2011.

Brussels has directed billions of euros to Warsaw to help its companies grow internationally; many Polish companies are reaching the stage where they can do so. We want to place metro Atlanta and Georgia in front of them.

The investment opportunity in Poland is more than a market less saturated than Germany. There are compelling similarities in the industry strengths of Atlanta and Poland, including bio sciences, digital media and advanced manufacturing.

We are making strides. Last year, hygienic product company TZMO SA quietly set up its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. We are seeing a handful of Polish prospects as the Southeast becomes better known to them.

Certainly, there are challenges. Chicago, with its large Polish population, easily beats Atlanta in name recognition. Poland’s digital sector has been looking more to Silicon Valley. And there is no non-stop flight between Atlanta and Warsaw.

But if we can create an opportunity to introduce metro Atlanta and Georgia, we have a strong sell. I recently traveled to Rzeszów for a presentation to Aviation Valley, an association of 112 aerospace companies. Its members were interested to learn metro Atlanta is located between the Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala., and the Boeing plant near Charleston, S.C.

I also gave an investment seminar in Warsaw, where I met with some 50 companies interested in the Southeast. The Metro Atlanta Chamber was the only U.S. organization present.

With state and local partners, we plan to continue this push and encourage Polish companies to turn their attention to the Southeast, with Atlanta and Georgia at the forefront.

John Woodward is senior director of foreign investment for the Metro Chamber.

About the Author