Red Carpet Tour courts businesses

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce invites prospective businesses to the Masters Tournament.

Georgia's "soft sell" marketing program reached the Augusta National Golf Course on Thursday morning with 23 prospective economic development clients aboard its buses.

Chris Clark, the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the same number of people are participating in this year's Red Carpet Tour as last year. The exception is the number of active projects among the courted executives.

"I'd say a third of the folks here have active projects," Clark said. "There are a few that have facilities here (in Georgia) that we're trying to get to grow."

Tim Rash represents Knoxville, Tenn.-based A-D Technologies. They're one of the projects that's already grown, but might want to grow further.

Rash's company makes conduit for fiber optics. "Anytime Verizon, AT&T, Qwest put fiber optics in the ground, it is our conduit," he explained, saying that the surge for broadband expansion is helping business grow.

A-D Technologies recently acquired a plant in Sandersville, Ga., and doubled the capacity, hiring 30 new people there.

Rash is being courted on the tour because they might "take it up further."

"In the past we've had a lot of folks that were here for relationship building, that soft sell relationship building. This year the mix is really strong with active projects," Clark said.

Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, said the real work from the Red Carpet Tour starts in May. That's when the follow-up phone calls begin after the brief face-to-face time of Thursday and Saturday, when the contingent returns for another round of the Masters Tournament.

This is the 52nd year for the tour, a four-day look at Georgia's economy. The contingent has executives from three countries and 11 states.

The tour began Wednesday night with a dinner with the governor in Atlanta.

Guests fly around the state aboard a chartered Delta Air Lines jet.

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