Dozens of regional economic development officials mixed business and pleasure during the first day of the Masters Tournament in the hope of recruiting new business and industry to the area.
Leaders with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and their local affiliates treated 33 visiting CEOs, site selection consultants and other corporate officials to a day at Augusta National Golf Club as part of the Red Carpet Tour, an annual marketing event designed to showcase Georgia’s business-friendly climate.
The tour always includes two stops in Augusta, where admission to the first and third rounds of the Masters Tournament serves as the economic development event’s centerpiece attraction.
“For some of you, we know this is your first trip to Augusta, but hopefully not your last,” said Eddie Bussey, 2017 chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, which helped coordinate the local leg of the invitation-only, four-day tour.
State officials say the event has generated tens of billions of dollars in investments and tens of thousands of jobs since its inception in 1960. Recent examples of tour guests that have located in the metro area include concrete-additive manufacturer EdenCrete, which last year announced plans to build a nearly $70 million, 250-employee manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters at the Augusta Corporate Park; and outsourced service provider Sitel, which employs several hundred people at its customer service center off Windsor Spring Road.
Walter Spouse, executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, said two of its active projects had representatives on this year’s tour.
The guest list is kept confidential and this year tour organizers requested media not interview invitees.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said this year’s group was the largest and most diverse he’s seen during the past seven years.
“We have everyone from advanced manufacturing to food processing,” Wilson said. “It’s a great mix. They align very well with our strategic industry groups.”
Because of severe thunderstorms Wednesday, the tour’s opening event – a reception and dinner at the Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday hosted by Gov. Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal – was canceled.
The group will return to Augusta on Saturday.
“Not only do we want to roll out the red carpet for you today, we want you to know the red carpet will be rolled out for you 52 weeks of the year,” Mayor Hardie Davis said during opening statements to the group.
Practice round tickets and tournament badges are provided courtesy of the Augusta National. On non-Red Carpet Tour days, local officials and chamber volunteers use the tournament credentials throughout Masters Week as part of their economic development and existing industry-promotion efforts.
Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County, said the authority was able to use the tickets to host Wolfgang Dremmler, the recently appointed CEO of GIW Industries, which two years ago invested more than $37 million into expanding its slurry pump manufacturing plant in Grovetown.
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