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GA governor talks auto plants, urban transportatio

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Guest donaltopablo

Normally, these articles are not that interesting. However, I did find the bottom questions very interesting discussing the bullet train and other transportation options Perdue learned about in Asia. Maybe we'll get lucky and see some of that here in GA.

Perdue presses for auto plant


Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lee Jin-man/AP

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (right) talks with John Endicott of Georgia Tech during 17th Korea-Southeast U.S. Joint Conference's dinner party at Coex convention center in Seoul.

SEOUL, South Korea -- At the end of a seven-day trade trip through Asia, Gov. Sonny Perdue has hardened his conviction that Georgia needs to continue its pursuit of an additional automobile assembly plant. Before catching a plane home on Saturday, Perdue sat down with staff writer Jim Galloway.

Some excerpts from the interview:

Q: You've met with Daimler and Audi in Germany, Toyota and Honda in Japan, and presumably Hyundai and Daewoo in South Korea. In terms of Georgia's search for an auto assembly plant, how do you handicap those three countries in the hunt?

A: I'm not sure I can tell you who springs next on the world stage. We visited with Audi in Germany, and they were very close-mouthed about their plans. Their hands had been slapped by Volkswagen at some point when they got a little too public about their expansion plans.

I think the next company looking for an assembly plant is probably Japanese, closely followed by one of the European companies. We're just trying to get on the radar screen here in Korea, to get ahead of the curve. Hyundai just did the deal in Alabama. [Construction is under way on an assembly plant in Montgomery.] So that'll take care of them for a while.

We wanted to get where we're not chasing the deal but in front of the deal. Most of these have not been sales closing calls, but marketing calls, letting people know what attributes we have. And that includes the whole automotive components industry.

We've got more automotive component suppliers than any other Southeastern state. But the perception is that because we don't have a new assembly plant, that we're not in the automotive business. [Doraville's GM plant and Ford's Hapeville plant are several decades old.]

Q: What happens now? Who makes the next move? What are those moves?

A: We would debrief after every meeting and share what little nuances we picked up -- then determine a follow-up strategy for all these companies, following up in-country, and from Atlanta as well. We would send them signals that we were listening to what they said.

Q: What kind of timetable are we talking about?

A: I think we're talking the two- to four-year range, really. It could be closer than that. But these are projects that are a long time in the making. We can't make the timing decisions for these companies. The market makes the timing. We simply have to be ready when they are. So that decision is not really ours. But I wouldn't expect to lose any [plant] to another state during that period of time either.

Q: What are the place of incentives in all this? When do they come in?

A: They usually come in pretty late in the process. Our strategy is to sell our strengths, which we believe to be work force development, training and logistics.

Where Georgia's located is immutable. And frankly, it's a huge logistic strength. The port of Brunswick and Savannah offer huge advantages there. Hartsfield [international Airport] -- we take it for granted, but it is still mentioned. The direct flights make a difference to these people trying to get over. They're busy business people.

Our strategy is to sell the strength first. My principle on this issue [of incentives] is to earn the business and not buy it. At some point you've got to be competitive, but my aim is to be competitive without giving anything away.

Q: What's the most important thing you've learned on this trip?

A: I think the most important thing is that I see a great similarity between Georgia's economic culture and the Asian culture of both Japan and Korea. Particularly Korea, at this point in time.

When you look at this city of Seoul, of 12 million people, and think of how quickly it has developed into a world-class city in just really 40 years, it's phenomenal.

The history we have in the South, of really only beginning to grow 40 years ago, in the '60s, the cultures are very similar. I think the hunger for business is very similar between the cultures. You can only sense that when you come here. There's a hunger to succeed in Japan and Korea that I sense in Georgia as well. We all have something to prove.

Q: Any thoughts on Japanese commuter rail or the bullet train?

A: There were two things I saw in Japan I thought were very progressive. One was the elevated road system that did not violate neighborhoods like a surface street would.

I don't know what the cost differential is, but it was a very efficient way of moving vehicles in and through crowded neighborhoods that did not totally obliterate those neighborhoods. Many of the rail systems were elevated, too.

I was absolutely fascinated by the bullet train. First of all, from a customer standpoint, it's everything you want in transportation. It's well-managed, it was clean, it was safe, it was comfortable, it was quick, and it was precise.

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