Time flies when you are having fun and we have certainly had a lot of fun over the past 10 years!
In October 2011, World Trade Center Savannah received its license from World Trade Centers Association (WTCA), in a ceremony in São Paulo, Brazil. We instantly became a part of a global network of some 300+ World Trade Centers across the world and thousands of international businesses focused on growing global trade.
Looking back over at what we have accomplished, the businesses we have worked with, the international delegates we have hosted and the amazing people we have met along the way has truly been rewarding.
One of our highlights each year is giving the World Trade Center Savannah International Business of the Year award which recognizes companies that excel in international trade and acknowledges the importance of trade to our region’s economy. We have recognized businesses focused on manufacturing, distribution and providing business services both large and small from throughout our region.
We are proud these winners are part of the framework of this region. Congratulations to Dorel Home Furnishings, Brodie International, Koyo Bearings, D.J. Powers Company, Savannah Bee Company, DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Gulfstream Aerospace, Alcoa Forgings, JCB North America and SNF.
We have partnered many years with Georgia Power Company for the Savannah Gateway Regional Showcase. This is an opportunity, along with our partners in economic development, to bring representatives and businesses from other countries to our region to experience firsthand what we have to offer in the areas of business opportunities, partnerships, natural beauty, culture and music. Through this event we have hosted guests from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Since day one we have focused on education and offering programing so businesses know the questions to ask and the experts who can help them as they explore and navigate the world of importing and exporting. We have hosted 133 Global Education Programs with 3,588 attendees. Most of these programs were in person but we have also found the benefit in virtual offerings which can bring in speakers and attendees from literally everywhere.
A favorite program was hosting then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue along with his counterparts, Lawrence MacAulay of Canada and Jose Eduardo Calzada Rovirosa of Mexico for a three-day summit titled, Partners for Agriculture in North America, which began the talks about the future of NAFTA and the beginnings of USMCA.
In 2012 we received the Grant of Authority from the U.S. Department of Commerce to serve as the Grantee for the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zone program (FTZ). Since then, FTZ 104 has grown to include 17 Southeast Georgia counties within our service area with 50 companies gaining financial benefits allowing them to compete on the global stage while maintaining and growing jobs here in southeast Georgia. These companies range from suppliers and distributers to manufacturers and from locally owned and regional businesses to multinational and big box stores.
We have also seen the next generation of talent through our college internship program. Interns have the opportunity to work on research projects, marketing, assist with Global Education Programs, participate in board meetings and can see their work throughout everything we do. We recruit at colleges and universities in our region – attending career fairs and making presentation in classrooms. We also accept resumes from college students from any university. We have been fortunate to work with some very bright talent through this program and have hired two former interns and promoted job opportunities throughout the region which have helped to employ many more in the world of international business. We have had the pleasure to mentor 102 students from 14 schools and from various countries.
One of the most fun and extensive research projects has been to identify target countries giving staff a clear path of focus for inbound and outbound recruiting of foreign investment and trade opportunities. The current target countries are a solid six; Canada, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, and the United Kingdom allowing WTCSav to focus on and cultivate relationships in which to best serve the businesses who are expanding their footprint outside of the U.S. via trade, partnerships and expansion. While each target country is important, we have varying levels of activity with each, and they continually evolve and grow. An example is our relationship with Ireland and our formal partnership, called Tradebridge, with Enterprise Ireland and the counties of Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Tipperary and Kilkenny. Just as the name implies, it is our team in partnership with a team in Ireland solely focused on developing trade and investment between the southeast region of Georgia and the southeast region of Ireland. Its success has landed contracts between businesses from both countries as well as the North American headquarters of Raceix, an Irish marine technology company.
There are so many people who have had a hand in making the first 10 years not only happen but also a success. The late Tommy Hester, chairman of Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), who help shepherd the idea of a WTCSav; Eric Johnson, who also served on the SEDA board, was on the exploration committee to determine how to structure the organization to serve the greater need of the region and who served as the inaugural WTCSav Board of Directors Chairman; Brynn Grant, former SEDA COO and VP of WTCSav who saw it from idea to concept to actuality and worked every day to ensure our success and Scott Center, WTCSav Board President, who is currently serving on the WTCA global Board of Directors for a second term and highlighting the work we do as well as the assets of this region.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the support of our business and economic development partners. Every day we look forward to working side by side as they develop and execute their international business strategies. In particular, I would like to thank our Founding Investor- the City of Savannah – who believed in us from day one.
And finally – the small yet amazing team and regional board of directors who guide and support WTCSav every step of the way. It has been a great 10 years and we look forward to many more.
Over the past 10 years, we have been fortunate to be recognized by the WTCA as one of the “most active” World Trade Centers twice and we plan on even more for the next 10 years so come be a part of it with us. If you are interested in growing your business through global trade or if you are an importer interested in the benefits of the FTZ program, please reach out by calling us at 912.447.9797 or wtcsavannah.org.