I had the pleasure of interviewing Sergio Domingues, Managing Director of the State of Georgia Europe Office based in Munich, Germany.  Georgia has had a footprint in Europe for over forty years and its commitment to this vast market is evident in the over 1,200 operations held by European companies in the largest state east of the Mississippi River.

On behalf of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), the state’s leading sales and marketing arm, the Europe Office’s core objective is to attract new business investment and encourage the expansion of existing industry and small businesses.

Domingues and his team in Munich are at the forefront of trade and investment activity, as they work to advise, guide and navigate prospective and existing investors from their initial considerations to market entry, expansion and beyond.  Moreover, the Europe Office also connects Georgia exporters to new markets and helps to cultivate Georgia’s relationships across the continent.

ome to the world’s busiest airport and renowned as the heart of the Greater Southeast region of America, Georgia’s capital, Atlanta, continues to serve as a breeding ground for innovation and partnership while serving as a premiere gateway to U.S. and global markets.  

Georgia is a fantastic state in the US in terms of geography, history and culture. What are the big economic and business successes in Georgia?

You are absolutely correct. It has been a fantastic year for economic development in Georgia. In fact, Georgia has been ranked the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business. We see economic and business success big and small every day in Georgia – and we like to celebrate all of our accomplishments. We consider it an honor when we are able to connect everyday Georgia citizens with job opportunities that will help them support their families and build their futures. In FY18, our Global Commerce team located 419 projects which generated $5.56 billion investment and created an outstanding 27,363 jobs which is a huge accomplishment. Our tourism, film and international trade teams saw record-breaking successes as well.

What industries are thriving in Georgia, why so?

There are numerous thriving industries in Georgia, but we have recently seen extreme growth in our cyber security industry sector. Georgia serves as one of the nation’s elite cybersecurity hubs, ranking 3rd in the nation for information security. We are home to more than 115 information security companies which generate more than $4.7 billion in annual revenue.

To support the growth of the cyber industry, we recently opened a $100 million Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta, which is the single largest investment in a cybersecurity facility by a state government to date. The center is a unique public/private partnership involving academia, state and federal government, law enforcement, the U.S. Army and the private sector.

We have also had an influx of announcements as it relates to headquarters, automotive, logistics, food-processing and beyond.

What international markets of particular interest and strategic importance and why? 

Georgia is a leader in the global marketplace. In fact, we have international representatives located in 12 strategic markets around the world. These markets include Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom and Ireland.

We have an award-winning International Trade division which provides Georgia businesses with global insight and connections to grow their international business opportunities. In 2017, total trade between Georgia and the world reached 225 unique countries and territories, exceeding a record breaking $128.6 billion. In the past 10 years, this trade has grown by 53%. Georgia now ranks 8th in the U.S. for total trade. Thanks to incredible leadership from Governor Deal and the hard work of our international teams, Georgia will continue to succeed in international markets.

If we look at our Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) impact – you will see that out of the record-breaking 419 expansion or relocation projects, we located in FY17 – 89 of them were international projects that created more than 6,800 jobs and generated more than $1.9 billion in investments. And, European companies included 49 locations, created 3,831 jobs and generated $837 million in investments. Companies from the United Kingdom, France and Germany led European companies in job creation.

You recently opened an innovation centre: Georgia-Pacific Point A – tell us more

Georgia-Pacific has been an amazing corporate citizen and the new Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation will serve as a collaborative space for businesses ranging from multi‐national corporations to emerging startups and academic institutions. We are proud of their hard work and innovation in the state.

For a Georgia based company that’s exporting, there are lots of opportunities; what does Georgia Department of Economic Development do to promote and facilitate this?

Again, we have a great International Trade division who help Georgia companies export. Exporting can be difficult for beginners, and our team provides knowledge and insight to help Georgia exporters strategize and achieve their goals, as well as connects Georgia suppliers with international buyers and delegations, partner resources and global opportunities. With their support, Georgia exports increased by 4% exceeding $37.2 billion and reaching 215 countries and territories worldwide in 2017. Canada, Mexico and China remained Georgia’s top export markets, and all showed positive growth last year. Georgia has international representation in 8 of the top 10 export markets and the dollar value of exports to all countries covered by Georgia’s international representatives totaled $25 billion.

Georgia is consistently ranked as the number 1 in the US to do business – what are the key reasons for this?

We couldn’t be prouder of this ranking. For five consecutive years – Georgia has been named the No. 1 state for business by Site Selection Magazine AND the top state for business by Area Development Magazine. It is unprecedented for any state to earn this ranking for this many consecutive years. There are many key reasons as to why Georgia has earned and maintained this No. 1 ranking, but I have to start with our leadership. Gov. Deal is an incredible leader, and he has cultivated an environment that allows for businesses and our citizens to thrive. If it weren’t for his strategic decision making and thoughtful leadership, Georgia would not be the incredible state it is today. Another key reason that we have maintained this ranking is through what we often refer to as our “culture of collaboration.” In Georgia, we believe that everyone is an ambassador for economic development, and everyone plays and important role. From our local development authorities and chambers of commerce, to our colleges and universities, our utility partners and of course our sister state agencies – Georgia pulls out all the stops when recruiting companies or helping them to expand. Through partnerships and collaboration, we are able to provide companies with everything they need to succeed, from a well prepared, smart workforce to utility partners who will keep operations running smoothly. When a company chooses Georgia, they are choosing a team of dedicated economic developers who will support them from conception to completion.

These factors along with the fact that Georgia is a great place to live, play and work, is why we are still the No. 1 state in which to do business.

What is the focus for the Georgia Department of Economic Development over the next 3 years in terms of trade and growth of the state’s economy?

As we look to a new administration – our focus will always be to create jobs and investment opportunities in every community in this state. We want to continue to cultivate an environment that is not only a great place to do business, but a great place to live.