Haiti: Open for business

Moderated by Rick Badie

“Haiti is open for business.” That was the election platform of Haiti President Michel Martelly and serves as a slogan for his administration. The local consular general of Haiti writes about efforts to capitalize economically on ties between his homeland and metro Atlanta, home to a sizable, spread-out Haitian population. Meanwhile, I interview a compatriot and founder of an area nonprofit working to transform the Caribbean country. A third column highlights the impact of having a flagship Japanese firm in our region.

Atlantans help Haitians rebuild

By Rick Badie

Haiti continues to rebound after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the region four years ago. Organizations such as The Haitian Alliance, formed by compatriots who live in metro Atlanta, continue to do whatever is necessary to rebuild as well as uplift the poverty-stricken country. Frantz Bourget, an East Point accountant and founding member of The Alliance, talks about its projects and government-led reconstruction efforts in his homeland.

Q: Tell me about The Haitian Alliance.

A: The Haitian Alliance is a local nonprofit organization that was founded in 2007 with a mission to empower the Haitian community to act as one and to create a future where Haitians realize their full potential. We have roughly 15 active members and 75 to 100 or so non-active.

Q: What was the Alliance’s response in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake?

A: The Haitian Alliance worked in collaboration with 21 community organizations to send a 40-foot container filled with much-needed goods that were donated by the generous people of metro Atlanta area. These goods were shipped to Haiti and distributed in four neighborhoods of Port Au Prince, where most of the devastation occurred.

Q: Do you have any ongoing projects?A: The Alliance has adopted two schools in the southern section of Port Au Prince in a neighborhood called Fontamara. We helped build a section of one of the schools that was destroyed by the earthquake. In addition, every school year, we provide tuition assistance for 25 students attending these schools.

Q: Are organizations like yours making a sizable dent in the the country’s needs?

A: Absolutely. We are one community helping one community. Haitians all over the world are noticing the Atlanta model and are beginning to concentrate efforts, rather than spread aid to individual families all over.

Q: How is the Haitian government handling the recovery?

A: The government is working to revitalize the tourist industry, such as the home of the great Citadelle Laferriere, built in the 19th century and the largest of its kind in the Americas, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage (Site) in 1982. As a result of the government’s active solicitation of foreign investments, several new five-star hotels are now operating in the country. The Oasis is a five-star, Haitian-owned and operated hotel, and the Best Western opened its doors earlier this year in Petionville, to name a few. A new international airport was recently inaugurated in Cap-Haitian, Haiti’s second-largest city. The Marriott will start operating a 173-room property in Port Au Prince in 2015. In addition to the efforts in tourism, there are developments in the manufacturing area. In 2011, a groundbreaking ceremony took place in Caracol, a northern fishing village, for a 246-hectare industrial park financed by foreign investors from the U.S., South Korea and several world monetary institutions, with the hope of creating thousands of direct jobs in the area.

Q: Is government malfeasance hampering revitalization efforts?

A: I am not privy to the government dealings or its inner workings. Therefore, I could not truthfully answer that question.

Q: Did the billions pledged after the earthquake get delivered as promised?

A: After the earthquake, the majority of countries in the world had pledged to assist Haiti in its rebuilding efforts. However, a series of natural disasters hit many of those countries which had pledged, from Chile with an 8.8 quake in February of the same year, to Japan with an 8.9 quake followed by a tsunami, and many more. Consequently, the focus that Haiti received started to fade.

A: Are global business relationships between our region and Haiti feasible?

Q: There are several aspects that makes Haiti very suitable for business relationships. From Atlanta, Haiti is only a three-hour flight. Haiti has a population of 10 million, with 55 percent under 30 years old. They are a multilingual, inexpensive labor force.

Strengthen Atlanta-Haiti ties

By Gandy Thomas

In 1779, more than 500 Haitian volunteers fought alongside American colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah. It is considered one of the most significant foreign contributions to the American Revolutionary War and evidence of Haiti’s long-standing ties to Georgia.

But this is where the story begins, not where it ends. Today, Haitians and Haitian-Americans represent one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups not just in the state, but in Atlanta, with a population of about 80,000.

Why Atlanta?

• Atlanta is a transportation hub, which makes it convenient to travel throughout the region and to and from Haiti. Delta Airlines has added direct flights to the country.

• Diversity is welcomed. Haitians add to the mix and are one of the largest African diaspora groups represented in Atlanta and the state.• Georgia has a booming economy and is a hub for several Fortune 500 companies.

All of this serves Haiti, which is seeking to re-image itself, boost tourism and introduce its rich culture to the world.

Every December, the consulate presents “Flavors and Colors of Haiti” to spotlight the richness of Haitian culture, and to promote economic opportunities and tourism. Last year, the focus was on our budding fashion industry.

Thursday, we bring Haiti’s premier dance company, Ayikodans, to the Rialto Center for the Arts. Having preformed for sold-out crowds at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the past several years, this will be Ayikodans’ Atlanta debut. Through a partnership with the Coca-Cola Co., proceeds from our event will help fund an internship for six students at Coca-Cola’s bottler in Haiti.

As the consulate, it is our role to provide resources to counsel and protect Haitian citizens living and traveling in the region. We also serve as a center of information and cultural cooperation for anyone interested in learning more about our beautiful country.

Our mission is to work toward the sustainable development of Haiti by facilitating and growing business relationships, promoting foreign investments, and engaging with decisionmakers and citizens on issues of interests.

As part of our outreach, we inform people about what’s happening in Haiti. This January will mark the fifth anniversary of its devastating 2010 earthquake. Since then, our government has made great strides rebuilding the country. Numerous infrastructure projects are underway, including construction and renovation of six new airports, four ports, and roads and bridges.

The Haitian economy is growing. Tourism increased by 20 percent from 2012 to 2013; the first Haitian-made tablet, Surtab, continues to attract buyers. Meanwhile, foreign investments have increased steadily, from $119 million in 2011 to $185.7 million in 2013. Companies like Marriot, Hilton, Heineken, Best Western, Kenneth Cole and TOMS all recognize that Haiti is a great place for economic growth and opportunity.

Carnival Cruise Lines recently added the Island of Ile de la Tortue on the country’s northern coast as the site of a future port on its itinerary. American Airlines recently added a daily flight at the historical city of Cap Haitien’s new international airport. Two Georgia companies, Safi and Carter’s, are investors in Haiti’s garment industry. Coca-Cola is one of the largest employers in Haiti with its Brasserie de la Couronne bottling plant.

We want to encourage other Georgia companies to take advantage of the many opportunities to do business there, including close proximity, burgeoning industries and generous tax incentives. Our office plans monthly trips to introduce business leaders to companies and industries in Haiti. We want to continue to strengthen ties between Haiti and Georgia.

Gandy Thomas is consul general of Haiti in Atlanta.

Kubota fuels economy

By Chris Carr

In November, Georgia was again named the No. 1 state in the nation for business (by Site Selection magazine, for the second consecutive year). This ranking is a testament to a successful year in economic development. This past year, Georgia was also named the No. 1 place for business by CNBC and Area Development.

A primary reason our state has had an exceptional year in economic development is because of our solid partnerships with thriving international markets.

Nearly two years prior, Deal announced the grand opening of the company’s Kubota Industrial Equipment manufacturing facility in Jefferson County. With this newest expansion in Hall, Kubota will employ more than 2,900 Georgians.

Kubota has remained a flagship for economic growth in our state. Its Georgia presence is a huge factor helping us attract Japan-based suppliers, creating more jobs and investment opportunities.

In Hall County, Tatsumi, an employer of 70, located to Georgia to provide logistics support for Kubota exports to Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. Etori, which employs 80, produces components for Kubota’s assembly lines in Gainesville and Jefferson. Shintone also supplies Kubota’s two assembly lines. More recently, Yahata came to Gwinnett County to supply original equipment manufacturers in Georgia, including Kubota.Kubota regularly meets with Japanese companies looking at Georgia, highlighting the strength of our qualified workforce, logistics infrastructure, low unionization rates and other pro-business incentives.

Last year, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of our office in Tokyo. Maintaining representation in Japan has been vital to attracting foreign direct investment from companies based there.

These companies employ more than 24,000 Georgians. Of all the international projects our department has worked, Japanese companies have accounted for 31 percent of the jobs created and 42 percent of the investments made by international firms. We have dedicated international investment and existing industry teams to support companies like Kubota that have had a presence in Georgia for decades.

Last, there is a strong cultural infrastructure here for Japanese companies. We have the Consulate General of Japan, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, Japan-America Society of Georgia, Japan External Trade Organization and Japanese-language “Saturday schools” for children of Japanese nationals. There is also a dynamic network of Japanese vendors to provide support in the areas of construction, insurance, staffing, legal matters and more.

More international companies in advanced manufacturing choose Georgia because of the success of firms like Kubota. We expect to see even more companies in this industry locate to Georgia from growing markets like Japan.

Chris Carr is commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

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