By John Schaffner
Sandy Springs has its sights set on becoming an international center for commerce.
In fact, there is a move afoot to trademark “Sandy Springs/Perimeter, The Global Gateway,” with a special logo.
Think about a possible Consulate Row in Sandy Springs. Think also of an international business incubator facility, where foreign visitors could find an office, desk and phone for their use while in Sandy Springs on business.
Two forces behind the globalization movement are the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce (SS/PC) and Mayor Eva Galambos. The two hosted a breakfast meeting March 16 to “stimulate interchange” and pick the brains of area international consuls and local businesses that deal in global commerce.
“I can’t say we will begin to stimulate business,” Galambos said. “But first we have to stimulate interchange between our countries, and that’s where we want to begin.”
The meeting appropriately was held at the world headquarters of UPS on Glenlake Parkway in Sandy Springs. Of the 20 people in attendance, most were local lawyers and business consultants who work with foreign companies, as well as representatives of the chamber and city government. Four were direct representatives of international entities.
According to George Bergmark III, chair of the SS/PC’s International Committee, said his group’s mission has three goals. The first is to attract international businesses to locate in the Sandy Springs/Perimeter area. The second is to assist local companies who are either doing business overseas or want to. The third is general economic development for the area.
“International trade is exciting, but it also brings excitement to the community,” said international law attorney Mike Sullivan of Taylor English & Duma.
Bergmark said that in the Sandy Springs/Perimeter area there are approximately 12 consuls and honorary consuls, officials who represent the governments of other countries.
Mitchell Kopelman, a partner with Habif, Arogeti & Wynne accounting firm, said there are at least 100 international companies that have U.S. offices within the city limits of Sandy Springs. Kobelman, who mentors companies that come to the area, added that dozens of foreign-owned companies are located in the Concourse office park.
Bergmark said the chamber’s International Committee is developing a Global Business Perspectives Series, which may provide a quarterly series of seminars and luncheons. One of these would be associated with the chamber’s International Awards meeting and dinner, Saturday, Nov. 18, which is still in the planning phase.
Kopelman was one of the people at the meeting that suggested the city and chamber look into establishing an international business incubator facility, which is like an executive office suite.
Olivia Wu, of the East West Bank, also suggested setting up an incubator to assist with inbound investments in the area. She suggested a target industry would be medical-related businesses because of the medical facilities already located in Sandy Springs.
Wu helped host a friendship and economic development trip to China from Sandy Springs last year. Sandy Springs business and government representatives, including Galambos and chamber members, took part.
Lani Wong, chair of the National Association of Chinese-Americans located in Dunwoody, suggested that the Chinese Consulate be allowed to have its offices in Sandy Springs, but said that would require a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and China.
“That would be an unbelievable coup,” Galambos said.
Marc Glenn, a lawyer with Taylor English & Duma who is honorary consulate general for the Republic of Iceland, also suggested the city should consider some sort of consular center and combined with an international incubator. “This is a wonderful time to build this presence,” he said.
Sandy Springs resident Eric DeGroot, who represents the Holland America Chamber, told the group it would be nice to have an international center that married the international culture with trade. DeGroot and others said Sandy Springs has many resources to showcase internationally, including good schools and economical living, and that it is an affordable place to do business.
Kyle Sherman, an immigration lawyer with Berry, Appleman & Leiden, said the city should put together a package of information as a tool to help businesses moving to Sandy Springs. “Help them explore the opportunities,” he suggested.
Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough said Sandy Springs “has developed a reputation it will do what is necessary.”