Last year, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle wasted no time in making good on a campaign promise that he would be involved in economic development in the state. Cagle accompanied Gov. Sonny Perdue on a trade mission to Europe, something none of his recent predecessors had done.
This week, Cagle returned from a trade trip to Brazil, marking the first time he had led a delegation on an international mission. His primary purpose was a fact-finding effort to learn more about Brazil’s use of ethanol, but at the same time Cagle didn’t miss any opportunities to pitch Georgia as a business destination.
"With oil prices at a historic high, I spent a significant amount of time learning more about Brazil’s biofuel industry and the progress they made to become energy independent," Cagle said.
Among those traveling with Cagle is Ron Barmore of Range Fuels, a Colorado company that is building an ethanol plant in Soperton, about 70 miles east of Macon. The plans call for production of ethanol from cellulose extracted from pine trees.
The rush to ethanol production has increased corn demand and sent prices significantly higher. Many Georgia farmers switched from cotton and peanuts to plant additional corn acreage in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the demand for corn for domestic ethanol production is on the verge of exceeding the current export demand for corn.
The Soperton facility is a pioneer in using cellulose as the primary ingredient in ethanol.
"Here in Georgia, we are moving rapidly toward converting pine tree parts into auto fuel and are home to the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant," Cagle said.
Last week’s mission comes on the heels of two 2007 missions led by the Georgia Department of Economic Development that explored Brazil’s production and distribution systems for ethanol, in particular cellulosic ethanol.
Cagle said that gas stations in Brazil offer consumers a choice of gasoline, ethanol or a blend of the two products.
The lieutenant governor is hopeful of establishing a relationship between Brazilian companies involved in ethanol production and Georgia’s research universities.
But the visit was not all energy-related. Cagle paid courtesy calls on business and government leaders in Brazil, Georgia’s 11th largest trade partner.
"Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the Georgia ports, and the presence of so many corporate headquarters make Georgia an ideal gateway for the world economy to connect to America," Cagle said. "The massive, emerging economies of such nations as Brazil, Russia, India and China represent the world markets of the future. As we seek to bring high-paying jobs to Georgia, engaging the government and business structures of nations like Brazil represents a critical challenge. This is where growth will take place, and Georgia cannot afford to be left behind."
The delegation made stops in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Cagle met with a number of diplomatic officials, including U.S. Ambassador Clifford Sobel, Vice Minister of Brazil Ivan Ramlaho and members of the senate.
Several Georgia companies including AGCO Corp., Coca-Cola, Equifax, Newell Rubbermaid and Novelis have operations in Brazil.
Brazilian companies including Artefacto, Bematech Corp., Florense US Design, Gerdau SA, Houston American Cement and WEG Electric Motors Corp. operate facilities in Georgia. Delta Air Lines offers nonstop daily service between Atlanta and both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.