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Danish Parliament members visit Macon companies

With sluggish job-creation figures in theU.S. and high unemployment rates inEurope, members of the Danish parliament visited Georgia at the end of last month hoping to swap advice on job creation and bilateral economic development.

Meeting with executives from Georgia’s departments of economic development and labor, several local chambers of commerce and elected officials on a nearly weeklong tour of the state, the nearly 20 members of the parliament’s Employment Committee focused on employment trends in the state.

The delegation met with Marc Parham, director of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta entrepreneurial program, and with local development executives at Gwinnett Technical College.  

Of particular interest to the group was Georgia’s QuickStart program, an initiative managed by the Technical College System of Georgia that provides customized workforce training for qualified companies investing in the state, said Ida Heimann Larsen, minister-counselor for the Danish Embassy, who join the legislators on the trip. 

Ms. Larsen told GlobalAtlanta that the employment committee saw great potential in the city as an area of investment for Danish companies because of the state’s job training programs, especially for those already out of work.

In fact, one the reasons the Danish delegation singled out Georgia, she said, was that they saw the potential for Danish investors to use education and job placement to improve the lot of low-income working families in the state, both in urban and rural areas.

“Somehow Atlanta is still very much a secret,” she said. “So hopefully after this trip Danish companies will really open their eyes … beyond more traditional cities like New York or Boston and come into Atlanta.”

But Ms. Larsen said the delegation’s visit marks an important step in the relationship between the two areas, strengthening already substantial economic and cultural connections. The state hosts approximately 65 Danish companies and is the seventh largest state exporter to Denmark, according to its embassy in Washington.

“Despite the differences between Denmark and Georgia, we have a lot of similarities that we can draw on,” Ms. Larsen said. “And because we face a lot of the same challenges, these sorts of trips are important in building relationships so that we can find new solutions to these problems.”

The legislators from Denmark, which features one of the world’s highest levels of income equality and per capita income, according to the World Bank, were given a tour of three Danish companies doing business in Georgia. 

Some Danish companies like defense contractor Terma North America Inc. and industrial exhaust manufacturer Dinex Emission Inc. have made serious investments in central Georgia, bringing dozens of jobs and millions of dollars to the region.

The group also visited Macon-based exporters, including aerospace and bicycle manufacturing firm L.H. Thomson Co. Inc. and BLC Hardwood Flooring, a division of Battle Lumber Company Inc., which is currently wrapping up a Quick Start training initiative. 

Located at the intersection of Interstates 75 and 16, which connects the port city of Savannah to Atlanta, Macon is “well positioned to attract new business and industry both domestically and from abroad,” said Macon attorney Christopher Smith, Denmark’s honorary consul for Georgia.

Mr. Smith, the Trade Council of Denmark in Atlanta and the Danish embassy arranged the visit.

In recent years, Central Georgia has done well in attracting large foreign and domestic companies to invest millions of dollars in new factories and offices, Mr. Smith said.

In May, Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier Inc. signed a multi-million dollar deal to strengthen its maintenance operations in Macon, and home-improvement retail chain Tractor Supply Co. announced in June that it would build its new $50 million regional supply center in Bibb County.

But despite these new investments, the region’s economic picture remains slightly worse than the rest of the state with an unemployment figure of 9.1 percent compared to the state’s figure of 8.9 percent overall, according to the Georgia Department of Labor 

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