Thibauld Quirion, the USA director for Enterprise Rhone-Alpes International, a global economic development facilitator, talks with Thrush Aircraft's sales and marketing director Eric Rojek during a tour of the Albany plant Thursday, March 21, 2013.
ALBANY, Ga. — George Novak was surprised Thursday to find, almost 5,000 miles from his home country, a little piece of home at an agricultural aircraft manufacturer in Albany.
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The Consul General of the Czech Republic noticed as he was walking among the aircraft parts at Thrush Aircraft that the engines that power the planes that spray crops the world over are originally manufactured in his home country.
That Georgia/Czech connection is exactly what state and local economic development officials are hoping grows as dignitaries and trade officials from 23 different countries toured Albany Thursday.
"It's all about learning about different opportunities and learning what's happening in different parts of Georgia," Claudio Leoncavallo, the Consul General of Switzerland and the dean of the Atlanta Consular Corps, said. "Most of my colleagues and myself cover a large territory in the South, and we travel to many states so we don't have that many opportunities to travel in Georgia itself. It's important for us to learn what's happening and report to our head offices to draw attention to this region and look for opportunities to create jobs both here in Georgia and in our home countries."
The three-day tour showcases Southwest Georgia to an audience that the region seldom has an opportunity to see. Representatives of Haiti, Canada, Belgium, Argentina, France and many other countries strolled through the Thrush manufacturing complex near the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Thursday, learning about opportunities for import and export with Georgia-grown businesses.
Albany is no stranger to international business dealings. In 2010, Coats and Clark, a U.K.-based thread and yarn manufacturer, expanded its facilities in Albany. That event brought Paul Forman, the group chief executive and member of the Coats board of directors, across the pond to cut the ribbon on a new 400,000-square-foot distribution center.
Thrush has grown on the international stage since taking over the Ayers product line in 2003. The company now has aircraft in 80 countries being used for applications that stretch way beyond the original crop dusting its predecessors established themselves with, including firefighting, drug eradication, rice sowing and environmental cleanup.