More than two dozen members of the Georgia Consular Corps, representing 26 countries, took a three-day trip around the state late last month visiting 10 counties as part of Georgia’s 29th annual International VIP Tour. This year’s itinerary showcased tourism destinations as well as business and economic development partnerships throughout Georgia.
On March 20, the 28-member group stopped in Athens where participants gathered at UGA’s Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries for a special dinner and tour of the library.
“We are thrilled the tour chose to visit UGA this year,” said Sean McMillan, director of economic development for UGA’s Atlanta office. “It’s an opportunity for us to strengthen our international relationships and show leaders from around the world the first-rate education students at UGA receive, the cutting edge research that is underway and the significant impact of our outreach programs.”
UGA President Jere W. Morehead’s remarks to the group emphasized the university’s international partnerships and strong relationship with Georgia’s business community.
“One of the things we are most proud of at UGA is that we have a long and consistent record of public service and outreach,” he said. “Which for us includes both support for economic development in the state and linking the work of UGA to the work that goes on throughout this state in our business community.”
David Lee, vice president for research, also noted the importance of the tour for UGA.
“UGA’s role in economic development is a particular source of pride,” he said. “By hosting this event, UGA has an opportunity to show international leaders how we take university research and resources into the state and engage with Georgia communities every day to help improve quality of life. Our hope is that this will not only strengthen existing relationships but also help establish new partnerships.”
Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development since 1985, the tour is the only event that brings the majority of Atlanta’s international diplomatic community together with communities across the state that they may never visit otherwise.
However, it’s not just the participants who benefit from the tour. While the experience enhances the Consular Corps’ understanding of Georgia’s economic development and tourism assets, it also offers communities the opportunity to establish or strengthen international business relationships.
“Members of the tour see firsthand what opportunities are available in Georgia,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “Then, when international companies are looking to expand to the U.S., the hope is that they will encourage them to visit Georgia and connect them with people around the state in these communities and with UGA.”