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Foreign delegates visit manufacturer
Hansgrohe shines during tour stop
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Russ Wheeler, Hansgrohe's North American president, gives a tour of the company's plant in south Forsyth. Representatives from more than 20 international Consul General Trade Offices visited the facility Friday as part of a Georgia Department of Economic Development initiative. - photo by Jennifer Sami

About two dozen consul general representatives were showered with information Friday about what makes Forsyth County a strong contender for international economic development.

The tour of Hansgrohe Inc. was just one of many stops on the three-day, 23rd annual International VIP Tour, organized by the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The group represented more than 20 international Consul General Trade Offices, including Quebec, the Republic of Lithuania, Japan and the Republic of Slovenia.

The tour is designed not only to showcase Georgia’s businesses, but to highlight the economic value, opportunities and character of the state’s communities.

For Germany-based Hansgrohe, south Forsyth was a perfect fit for its North American headquarters.

The leading manufacturer of decorative bathroom and kitchen fixtures entered the U.S. market more than 20 years ago. It has been in Forsyth for the past decade.

Russ A. Wheeler, president of the North American headquarters, said he was honored to have "such a distinguished group visit our operation today.”

“We’re pleased we can help Georgia, and more importantly Forsyth County, with trying to recruit more international companies to move here,” said Wheeler after the tour. “We’re not just saying this. We really are happy here.

"People have tried to lure us away, but we have no interest. Our home is right here in Forsyth County, and all we want to do is expand.”

The trip was particularly exciting for Lutz Görgens, consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, who grew up just north of the 108-year-old company’s main office in his homeland.

“Hansgrohe is a wonderful showcase of a company that started slow, really ... as a small or medium enterprise, and now is a global company,” he said.

“This trip has been so diverse, from sports to business, from education to nature, we could not have gained a better picture of this wonderful part of Georgia.”

David Seago, who serves as chairman of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said the decision to visit Hansgrohe was based on market research.

The results showed that health care, software design and development and technology-based manufacturing are industries Forsyth is best suited to attract.

“There really is no better example than Hansgrohe when it comes to tech-based manufacturing in the county,” he said. “There are a lot of places we could have taken them, but this fits the bill.”

“Hopefully, one day when they’re back talking to their counterparts outside the U.S., they’ll talk about Forsyth County and what’s here.”

Seago hopes Forsyth’s education, quality of life and standard of living make the county stand out from other cities and counties the group visited.

The event came just a few days after an accidental chemical reaction that cleared the building Monday.

“It’s always scary when you have something like that happen," Wheeler said. "We were very fortunate that all of our safety procedures were followed and executed perfectly and, more importantly, no one was injured."

He said the employees had worked hard since the chemical reaction to make sure everything went well.

“It’s gone great,” said Wheeler of the event. “I think everybody was very pleased with everything, and I got a lot of very nice comments from the consul generals.”