By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Chamber hunts international business
Strategy involves firms already here
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Nearly 50 foreign companies call Forsyth County their American home. But local officials are set on finding new ways to attract more business from overseas.

At a recent meeting of the Forsyth County Development Authority, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce unveiled its plan to continue growing its international profile.

“For a community of our size, we have a substantial presence of international firms here,” said James McCoy, chamber president and chief executive officer.

“It’s something that we have a niche for to begin with and ... an important way as a business community that we can differentiate ourselves from the rest of metro Atlanta.”

Kim Goff said the chamber has begun compiling a more detailed listing of international companies in the county.

Goff, the chamber’s interim economic development vice president, said the initial list had 32 companies. However, she did some more digging and found 49.

“There’s probably a number of other companies we may not be aware of that are in the county that we’ll add to this list as we go forward,” she said.

“We talk about marketing to other international companies. You want to be able to brag about what you have, and I think what we have is a lot more rich than what we actually thought.”

Volunteers have begun calling more than 400 companies listed for the county, updating information including employment numbers and business offerings.

From there, Goff said, “We want to look at our existing industry and their suppliers and target having those suppliers here in Forsyth County.”

Recruiting suppliers will be a two-pronged approach, Goff said.

First, there will be an effort to encourage manufacturing companies to use suppliers in the county. This would spawn more job and economic growth for local firms.

The other approach will be encouraging businesses that supply local manufacturers to move or open a branch in Forsyth from which they could serve their clients.

Germany-based Hansgrohe, a decorative bathroom and kitchen fixtures manufacturer, was first to sign on to the plan.

The company, which has played a major role with the chamber on international recruitment, will serve as a test case, offering contact information on its German suppliers and looking more locally.

Of the county’s international businesses, 12 are based in Germany. That’s why the country is first on the chamber’s list.

“Germany is the best represented ... so instead of targeting a country we didn’t have a large presence from, we thought it would be better for us to target a country that we’ve already had some success with,” McCoy said.

While Goff has the project under way, she soon will pass it to Randall Toussaint, the chamber’s incoming vice president of economic development.

McCoy said Toussaint, who comes aboard in September, will spend about three months learning about the chamber and international recruitment program, on which he will work heavily.

Bobby Thomas, chairman of the development authority, encouraged the plan. He said the survey will help the county tout its track record to international firms.

He was also “impressed with how many of those companies we had here.”

“I’ve never heard of a lot of them,” Thomas said. “They sure keep a low profile. What can we do to get them involved in the community and contributing to the economic activity here?”

Getting Forsyth’s existing international presence involved in the process is among the goals, McCoy said.

“There are plenty on that list that can be involved at a higher level, they just haven’t been invited,” he said. “That’s really a big part of this process too, is inviting them to the table with something meaningful.”