Heidi Green, then deputy director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, helped to set up the meetings, telling employees in one email that “Fyi, this is the Gov’s company.” Perdue’s businesses “are laying the groundwork so that when the governor leaves office, they will be in a position to start up an operation,” one port official reported in a 2009 internal email.
In January 2010, Perdue announced that he was committing $121 million to improve truck access to the port of Savannah. In July of that year, he named his cousin David to the port authority board of directors and promoted Green to head the Department of Economic Development. Trey Childress, the state’s chief operating officer under Perdue, also became an ex officio member of the ports board that month.
In September 2010, just four months before leaving office and returning to private life, Perdue took another taxpayer-financed trade mission to China, telling the press that his primary focus was to increase business at Georgia ports. And in April 2011, four months after leaving office, Perdue announced creation of Perdue Partners, a global exporting business focusing on importing, exporting and trucking operations through the port.
Its other three partners: David Perdue, Trey Childress and Heidi Green.
In three years’ time, a trucking operation that in 2010 boasted just 15 trucks and drivers now boasts 300 trucks and 500 employees, and while Perdue may not want to admit it, government played a critical role in that expansion. As the AJC’s Dan Chapman previously reported, Perdue spokesmen have insisted the company enjoyed no special assistance, but if so, “no special assistance” was still a lot of assistance.
In this case, as in many others, the mythology about the self-made businessman is just that: myth.