Upon arrival in Gordon County, the group visited the New Echota Historical Site and later toured the newest addition of the Northwest Georgia Technical College on the Gordon County campus in Calhoun.
After the tour of the college, the VIP group enjoyed a lunch sponsored by the Gordon County Development Authority and the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce.
Lutz Görgens, of Germany, and Ph.D., dean of the Consular Corps of Georgia is one of the few long serving consulate members and explained he was “very impressed.”
Görgens was most impressed by the programs such as the dental and nursing assistants programs offered to students, and conveyed he himself could have employed the early parenting classes offered to young or inexperienced parents with first time children.
“Some of the elderly console generals here remember the time when we had small toddlers or babies and would have loved some instructions on how to deal with them,” said Görgens.
Gordon County representatives who spoke to the group after lunch included Calhoun City Mayor Jimmy Palmer, County Commissioner Chair Judy Bailey, President of Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Jimmy Phillips, Chair of the Gordon County Development Authority Larry Roy and Vice President of Georgia Northwestern Technical College Pete McDonald.
Sponsored by the State of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, the group visited six counties on a tour of Northwest Georgia, in an attempt from the department, for foreign consulates to venture outside the metro Atlanta area.
“We take them (consulates) outside of Atlanta because for those of us from outside of Atlanta know that Atlanta is not always representative of the whole of Georgia. There is so much in this state’s quilt that it is worth seeing all the patches,” said Chris Young, Chief of Protocol and director of International Affairs for the state of Georgia.
The tour is renowned for the opportunities for communities to forge new working relationships with those overseas.
“The event benefits both the participants and the host regions: it enhances the consular corps’ understanding of Georgia’s business and tourism assets, and offers communities the opportunity to establish international business relationships,” according to a press release from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Accompanied by two Georgia State Patrol officers, the consulate group visited places such as Rome and Berry College, Chickamauga, Booth Museum and others on the three-day tour of Northwest Georgia
The tour occurs annually and the consulates tour different regions of the state, year to year. According to Young, the tour came through Northwest Georgia last in 2006.
“Its about once every six years we cycle through an area in the state. We are back up here this year and the idea is to show them what goes on in parts of the state outside of Atlanta,” said Young. “So to that end we meet with local leaders, people who are with chambers and economic development authorities, people who are in education, at all levels, people who run convention and visitors bureaus, tourism type activities, and we look at the historical imprint in the area.”
The tour has also allowed Georgia to boast the fastest growing number of consulates in the world next to Beijing and the key is success, according to Young.
“We started this process seven years ago, and there were only 44 nations that had a diplomatic or commercial presence in Atlanta, and that number is 70 now and it’s not just in Atlanta, its across the state. That’s exponential growth,” said Young.
Georgia has a large connection with overseas partners.
“Currently, more than 50 countries operate almost 3,000 internationally owned facilities in Georgia, employing more than 170,000 Georgians. With a record $34.7 billion in exports in 2011, Georgia is now the 12th largest exporting state in the nation,” according to a press release from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Bringing consulates to places like Gordon County allows opportunities for connections abroad and to form working relationships.
Ultimately, the goal is international progress and the tour allows Georgia communities, like Gordon County, to show what they are made of.
“They (foreign consulates) begin to understand and even eyes from native Georgia, look at Georgia through different lenses and get to explain things to people who aren’t from here. You really begin to see what a place is all about and you understand what is going on,” said Young. “I’ve got to tell you right in Calhoun, Gordon County there is a wonderful civic spirit. We have seen that from the moment we rolled into the county,” he said, encouraging representatives of Gordon County to invite consulates back.
Countries represented on the tour were: Liechtenstein, Republic of Nigeria, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Quebec, Republic of Albania, Switzerland, Sweden, Ecuador, Haiti, Canada, Estonia, Ireland, Czech Republic, Brazil, India, France, Bahamas, Philippines, Belize, Botswana, and Hungary.
The Consulate General of Brazil, one of the newest consuls to the United States, was chosen to speak on behalf of all the consulates, and drew many comparisons between Gordon County and his homeland Brazil.
“Brazil is of course as large a country as is the U.S. as is Canada so we feel and we can relate very much to the challenges that you have in local communities in counties such as Gordon County. What I wish to say is that we are all very much open for business in Atlanta,” said Ribeiro Hermano, of Brazil. “I have found this to be a very joyful experience. I would like to thank very much the Chamber of Commerce of Gordon County. It was a very instructive visit here and we also have very many technical schools in Brazil. We know how important it is to be locally focused on the communities,” he said.
The group departed with gifts of locally bottled water and local honey as souvenirs from Gordon County.