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Foreign visitors coming to Hall
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Diplomatic and business officials from 20 countries will descend on Northeast Georgia next week for the 23rd annual VIP tour.

The three-day tour, which begins April 15, will include three stops in Hall County.

The day begins with a visit and tour of the Atlanta Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch. Later, they will tour the manufacturing plant of Kubota, a Japanese maker of tractors, light utility and construction equipment. Their final stop in Hall County will be for lunch at Jaemor Farm Market near Alto.

"We are delighted to welcome these visitors to Hall County, especially since we have a number of international companies located here," said Kit Dunlap, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

The tour combines travel destinations with significant economic development projects and local business leaders and enables Georgia’s diplomatic corps to meet local Georgians in their own communities.

"Each year, the VIP Tour gives Georgia a unique opportunity to highlight business, cultural, tourism and educational assets of different regions of our state," said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. "Georgia’s diplomatic corps will be able to witness first-hand Northeast Georgia’s unmatched beauty as well as its economic development capabilities."

The International VIP Tour is a unique program that benefits its participants and host regions. Each year, tour participants visit a part of the state they might not otherwise experience in order to enhance their understanding of Georgia’s amenities and culture. The tour also offers communities the opportunity to establish relationships with international business representatives.

"Any exposure we can get right now on an international level will pay dividends for us," said Philip Wilheit, a Gainesville civic leader who serves on the State Board of Economic Development. "It may not be this year or next, but over the next five years. When they see our quality of life and what we have here and it will register with them."

This year’s VIP Tour will include representatives from Albania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Nigeria, Philippines, Slovenia, Switzerland and Taiwan.

"Every year, Georgia’s consular corps looks forward to getting to know more of Georgia by way of the VIP Tour," said Amanda Hodges, Consul General and Trade Commissioner of Australia. "It’s an excellent way for us to reinforce our social, political, economic and cultural ties with Georgia’s communities."

After the stops in Hall County, the group will visit Tallulah Gorge State Park, with an overnight stay in Clayton.

On Thursday, April 16, the group will view a presentation at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School and then go to Young Harris College for a program. In the afternoon, the tour stops at several sites in Dahlonega before an overnight stay at Unicoi State Lodge in Helen.

On Friday, they will visit the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville and complete their trip with a tour of Hansgrohe’s facility in Cumming.

The Atlanta Consular Corps consists of consuls general, consuls, honorary consuls and trade commissioners representing 61 countries. Career officers are members of their country’s foreign services while honorary officials are local residents appointed by foreign governments to perform consular duties. Each consulate offers diplomatic and business assistance to nationals from its respective country.

There are 53 countries that operate more than 2,500 internationally owned facilities in Georgia. In fiscal 2008, international companies accounted for $1.08 billion in investment and the creation of 7,001 jobs.