ATLANTA - Augusta, Athens and other east Georgia cities will play host this week to a bus load of diplomats and foreign trade representatives touring the area with the state's industry-recruiting agency.
The Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism is shuttling 30 consuls and trade agents to the region to introduce them to local officials and to familiarize them with the commercial and cultural atmosphere.
The annual tour has visited a different region each year since its inception in 1985.
"These individuals work hard to represent their countries and businesses in our state," said Glenn Cornell, Georgia's commissioner of industry, trade and tourism. "I want to ensure that they are equipped to carry the message that Georgia is a wonderful place to play and live, and when they return to their homes or move on to their next international assignment, the tour gives us an opportunity to do just that."
After touring the University of Georgia in Athens today, the bus will head for a drive through Madison before winding up in Augusta for a reception at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and Gardens and dinner at the Pinnacle Club. Guests might need a strong stomach Thursday morning because breakfast comes with a tour of research labs at the Medical College of Georgia.
They will view how the Department of Pathology is studying how some cancers and viruses spread through the human body. They will also see research done by a husband-and-wife team investigating high blood pressure, and a colleague who is looking at why it harms kidneys.
Also, they will observe research on stem cells, corneas and sexually transmitted diseases. The tour will then head to the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center before driving to Sandersville for lunch.
Augusta officials are looking forward to the visit.
"It's a good opportunity to show what Augusta has to other folks," said Scott MacGregor, the vice president for public and government affairs with the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.
There are 1,600 internationally owned plants or offices in the state, employing more than 125,000 Georgians.
Much of what the diplomats do daily is look for U.S. customers for companies back home, but when there are enough customers to justify building a plant in this country, they offer advice on locations. The diplomats also provide official aid to citizens of their countries living in the United States.