The Georgia-Korea license agreement

Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, the Korean consul general in Atlanta touts the economic benefits of a new Georgia law that makes it easier for foreign business leaders to obtain driver’s licenses. The other guest writer highlights the 50th anniversary of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, a trade group that promotes statewide job creation and growth.

License agreement fuels economic growth

By He-beom Kim

The Reciprocal Driver’s License Agreement between Georgia and the Republic of Korea, which took effect in July, marked the beginning of a new chapter in economic development. From its start as a grassroots movement within the Korean community, the agreement had a long way to go before becoming a law. Without the support of businesses, local communities and chambers of commerce, it is unlikely this agreement would have been realized. Moreover, it would not have been possible without the leadership Gov. Nathan Deal consistently provided.

During July and August, about 400 Korean applicants in Georgia benefited from the program. Students, expats and their families were the major benefactors.

As a member of the Atlanta consular corps, I have had the opportunity to observe the state, the city and other municipalities work together to drive Atlanta and Georgia to success. I have seen state-of-the-art infrastructure put in place. I have seen cultural diversity and tolerance have positive impacts on every aspect of our lives. I have seen political and economic leadership interact to enhance economic competitiveness.

Most importantly, I have seen immigrant communities become strong and intertwined. These communities are a vibrant part of what makes up this city and state. Their ability to grow, thrive and work together is what makes Georgia and Georgians great. I have seen them place their strong bonds with their communities at the heart of everything they do.

It is natural that Korea, the seventh-largest trading partner with the U.S., is keeping its eye on Georgia and metro Atlanta as it seeks business and investment opportunities. Korea is the third-largest market of U.S. services in Asia. Korea is also one of the top 10 trading partners for Georgia, with Georgia accounting for nearly 7 percent ($7 billion) of all U.S. trade with Korea.

Our communities working, building and winning together have become a transformative experience for a very sizable portion of the Korean community. As documented through the signing of the reciprocity agreement, if we work together towards our common goals, we will achieve continued growth and job creation. I believe that, as our interdependence grows, it is our obligation to capitalize on the opportunity and harness the potential brought by increased social and economic cooperation.

I believe there is huge potential created by the Reciprocal Driver’s License Agreement. By deepening our ties through continued economic cooperation, the exchange of ideas and cultural understanding, the benefits have the potential to increase exponentially for Georgia and the Republic of Korea.

He-beom Kim is the Korean consul general in Atlanta.

Trade group creates jobs

By Mike E. Pennington

This year, the Georgia Economic Developers Association, a trade group that promotes job creation and sustainable economic development throughout the state, celebrates its 50th anniversary. Through events, a commemorative booklet and an interactive timeline, our members hope to leverage this milestone to educate citizens about our industry’s role in the state’s growth.

Economic development doesn’t just happen. There’s a vast amount of professional development, networking and education that goes into the job, which is to prepare and promote a community to create wealth that improves the livelihood of residents.

When GEDA was conceived, Georgia was in the midst of a slow recovery. It had only been just over a decade since the state’s tax digest reached the level it had before the Civil War devastated our economy.

Because of the work of visionaries like Henry W. Grady and William B. Hartsfield, Georgia was ready when World War II brought a massive infusion of federal dollars into the state for military bases, shipyards and factories. This capital investment quickly moved Georgia toward the industrialized “New South.”

Competition within Georgia for capital investment was fierce. By the early 1960s, industrial developers began to see the potential in cooperation. They gradually warmed to the concept of collaboration and cooperation and made it official in 1963 with GEDA’s formation. This teamwork has given Georgia an advantage over other states. It has been a key factor in its economic transformation.

GEDA has refined its mission, but remains focused as a resource for economic development and a voice on issues that affect economic policies and regulations. The organization led an initiative to establish sales and use tax exemptions for industrial machinery. It supported creation of local development authorities. GEDA supported the constitutional amendment establishing the Freeport Inventory Tax Exemption and, more recently, legislation that created the OneGeorgia economic incentive program and expanded the use of tax allocation districts.

Nearly 800 members across the state work to grow the manufacturing, commercial and retail, tourism, convention and small-business sectors. Practitioners are active in everything from entrepreneurship and workforce preparedness to researching commercialization and international trade. They take advantage of GEDA professional development opportunities to learn how to market their cities and counties.

Economic developers do not create jobs. They provide information and assistance to companies that do. They work hand in hand with government and business to secure investment and reinvestment in their communities.

It’s paying off. Last year, Georgia’s economic developers secured $7.8 billion of investment by locating and expanding businesses and 25,000 new jobs.

Though the work of GEDA members today is invisible to many of us, we will continue to feel the impact of that work for the next 50 years. For more information, go to:

Mike E. Pennington is president of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

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