FORSYTH COUNTY — The Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce recently rolled out the red carpet for businesses from France that could potentially locate here.
Randall Toussaint, the chamber’s vice president of economic development, said a “red carpet tour,” held June 26, was one of several the chamber has offered prospective businesses in recent years.
Toussaint said the effort was organized as a partnership between the local chamber’s International Engagement Team and French Trade Ministry.
Five companies had representatives take part in the tour, along with an economic development representative from the Toulouse region of France, who represented some 50 other firms.
“The purpose of their trip was to really learn about the Southeast region of the U.S.,” Toussaint said. “And Atlanta, having the world’s busiest airport, and with direct access to the port of Savannah, [Georgia] continues to be a hub for global commerce.”
Forsyth County also is a leader in the international market. Toussaint noted that the county is home to some 70 international companies.
Several red carpet tours have been offered in recent years to help attract more such companies.
“These types of tours seem to work very effectively,” Toussaint said. “I think what’s unique about them is that they give us an opportunity to have long-term discussions as opposed to short-level presentations.
“I think one of the more successful [tours] involved a Korean company by the name of IUS Technologies. Initially, they were interested in just exploring whether or not our market was technology-friendly and through our tour with them, we were able to actually branch out and find a location for their U.S. headquarters.”
During the recent tour, the French representatives were shuttled from the French Trade Ministry’s office in the Buckhead area of Atlanta to Forsyth County.
“We took them on a driving tour of several of the industrial and office parks in which international companies reside and they loved it,” Toussaint said.
“I gave them a first-hand account of who’s here in our market and how large the companies have been able to grow. I think the [French] companies all had a knowledge that international firms were here, but they didn’t realize to what extent most of those companies had grown once they entered our market.”
After the site tour, the business representatives were taken to Polo Golf and Country Club.
Tonja Hammann, the chamber’s international engagement coordinator, was among the tour organizers.
As the wife of a leader of one of the county’s German firms, which came to Forsyth several years ago, Hammann knows the challenges international companies and their workers’ families can face.
“I’ve been engaging in the international program to especially help out the families once they move here,” Hammann said.
She received good feedback from the company leaders who took part in the red carpet tour.
“Once they got to the Polo Fields, [employees there] were nice to organize a little golf tournament for them … they seemed to have a lot of fun with that,” Hammann said.
“I think they didn’t really know what to expect when they came up here, but I think they were pleasantly surprised.”
Hammann said other members of the international engagement team also addressed the visitors during their dinner.
“We wanted to let them know that we would love to have them in our county and that we would help them all we can with all the challenges they would face,” she said. “We’re very hopeful that they will move into Forsyth County or at least keep in touch with us and see what the future brings.”