Originally created 04/10/98

Tour stops at golf course



Whack!

Steven Klebanoff hit a few balls at the Augusta National Golf Course on Thursday.

The chairman and co-chief executive officer of Middle Atlantic Products was in front of a video camera in the Red Carpet Tour tent when he did it. But it was still a thrill for him, he said.

A golf pro analyzed the executive's swing, and then Mr. Kebanoff went out to see the tournament.

"It's a pleasure to be here," he said.

A guest of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Klebanoff and about 40 other executives are on a five-day trip designed to spur economic development -- the Red Carpet Tour.

A complete list of the executives was not made public.

The chamber of commerce, business leaders and public officials are attempting to woo the company heads with the expectation that they will invest business in Georgia.

Every year the tour makes different stops, but it always comes to Augusta for the first day of the Masters Tournament. This year the group will visit Georgia's coast and will return to the Augusta National on Saturday, the last day of the tour.

Local officials try to impress the corporate executives and make them feel welcome.

"We don't try to do a hard sell," says Kevin Shea with the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce. "But we're here to answer their questions."

Officials hope that their hospitality will translate into jobs and economic investments.

Mr. Klebanoff's company, for example, makes metal racks and is based in Riverdale, N.J. It has warehouses in Illinois and California but is considering an expansion into the South.

State officials want it to be in Georgia.

Local officials want it to be in Augusta.

And Mr. Klebanoff is considering it, he said.

The Red Carpet Tour has a good record of landing developments.

Since 1988, The Red Carpet Tour has resulted in more than $2.9 billion in new business investment in the state and 19,500 new jobs, according to the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism.

A few years ago, Kwikset/Black & Decker decided to locate a lock factory in Waynesboro.

Last year, South Korea-based Hankook Synthetics announced plans to build a $1.2 billion polyester plant.

The executives on tour represent a diverse range of companies.

This year, they include:

-- Max Castellani, the chief executive officer of Atex. His company, based in Italy, is looking at Georgia as a place to put a plant that makes plastic polymers.

-- Mike Brookes, the managing director of Process Automation and Computer Systems. His company, based in England, is involved with low power radio telemetry. He plans to stay another week after the tour to talk to lawyers.

-- And Jordi Dalmau, of USA Labs. He's already invested in Columbus but might expand in other cities.

Many of the executives said Thursday that they enjoyed their visit.

They got to see the greats play. And, if nothing else, they will get to take home a video of a lesson to improve their swings.