Helping local and regional businesses expand to an international market is the name of the economic-development game, World Trade Center Savannah representatives told Hinesville Rotary Club members Tuesday.
“Our mission is to create jobs and attract investment,” said Brynn Grant, chief operating officer for the Savannah Economic Development Authority and vice president of World Trade Center Savannah.
Grant, a Hinesville native, said WTC Savannah was established in October 2011 to help area businesses and manufacturers grow globally, to identify foreign investment opportunities for the coastal Georgia region and generate the revenue to support these activities. Grant and her colleague, Leigh Ryan, WTC Savannah director of trade services, both spoke at the club’s meeting.
“Ron Tolley, Anna Chafin and Liberty County were with us the entire time,” Grant said, referring to the Liberty County Development Authority’s role in supporting the creation of WTC Savannah. Tolley, a Rotarian, is CEO for the LCDA, and Chafin is the development authority’s director of marketing and research. The LCDA and the Screven County Development Authority, are listed on WTC Savannah’s website as “founding development authorities.”
Grant and Ryan met with the LCDA later Tuesday afternoon.
Grant told club members the WTC Association is an established, international network with 300-plus member trade centers in more than 100 countries. She added that more than 1 million businesses are “plugged in” to the WTC network.
Grant listed Germany, Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada as the “target” countries where WTC Savannah focuses its marketing and sales efforts. She says the WTC must identify those nations offering opportunities that “have the greatest positive impact for our region,” she said. Grant then listed Turkey, Israel, Portugal, Nigeria and South Africa as “countries of interest.”
“We’re working on a strategy for China specifically,” she added.
Grant said WTC Savannah collected more than 20,000 pieces of market-research data to determine which counties it should target for doing business.
Grant told Rotarians about WTC Savannah’s first case study, one that proved successful for Hussey, Gay, Bell & DeYoung, an international engineering firm based in Savannah. The firm wanted to explore business opportunities in Turkey, she said.
Grant said the WTC Savannah team, which included Ryan, pulled together the necessary contacts and arranged meetings for Hussey, Gay, Bell & DeYoung with their Turkish counterparts within a three-week period.
Ryan told Rotary club members about Foreign Trade Zone 104, which WTC Savannah oversees as the grantee for this region.
“We’re the first stop you would speak to (as an exporter applicant),” Ryan said.
“A foreign-trade zone is a federally approved location within the United States, which is considered outside of U.S. Customs territory where domestic and foreign merchandise may be placed without formal customs entry and without payment of duties and taxes,” the WTC Savannah website states. Foreign-trade zones generally are located in or near ports, at industrial parks or terminal warehouse facilities, according to wtcsavannah.org.
Ryan said it takes six months or less to process an application with the foreign-trade zone. Current foreign-trade zone users in Liberty County include Hugo Boss and Firth Rixson, she said.