Records show cost of Germany trip; officials tout benefits

ATLANTA (AP) " A weeklong trade mission to Germany cost Georgia around $137,000 for 20 people to travel there this month, accompanied by two state economic development employees based in Germany.

That's according to a tally of preliminary expenses requested by The Associated Press under Georgia's Open Records Act.

State officials say overseas trips build relationships with companies already operating in Georgia and others that may consider it. So far, no announcements tied to the Germany trip have been made.

Gov. Nathan Deal, though, has hinted at payoffs since his return.

"In the next few weeks, you're going to be hearing some announcements that will make our job opportunities even better," Deal told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the trip allowed visits with companies "who have been on our prospect list."

Deal and governors across the country frequently line up deals that can be finalized during overseas trips or soon after. Last summer during a trip to Brazil, Deal announced a Brazilian IT firm planned to hire 400 people in Atlanta.

The group included Deal, first lady Sandra Deal and executives with Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.

based in Savannah and MAU Workforce Solutions, a staffing and recruiting agency based in Augusta. The delegation also included two members of Deal's Georgia State Patrol security team, Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr and seven other Georgia-based economic development staffers.

Carr said face-to-face meetings are a key part of attracting new business.

"The mere fact you're willing to go see them is a benefit," Carr said. "We have 12 offices around the world because we recognize the value in relationships."

Georgia officials also learn from visiting other countries, he said. In Germany, for instance, officials learned about an apprentice program pairing companies and local governments to help with individual students' education costs, he said. The delegation included a representative from both Georgia's university and technical college systems.

The total trip cost could change " either rising as participants catch up on paperwork for reimbursement or falling as the state received some hotel taxes back. Airline tickets cost the state about $56,000; smaller expenses include about $1,400 for gifts of baskets, pecan oil and truffle oil for host companies and other dignitaries.

Greg Torre of the Department of Economic Development said participants paid a $4,885 registration fee for the trip to help pay for hotel rooms, train and bus transportation and other costs. The state does cover some of that fee for employees of various agencies.

The group made stops in Dusseldorf, Linz and Munich. The Department of Economic Development redacted details of visits to two locations on a trip itinerary provided to the AP, citing an exception for economic development prospects under Georgia's records law.

Deal also participated in a summit with leaders from Bavaria; Quebec; So Paulo; Shandong; Upper Austria; and the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Hotel costs in Munich for the Deals were paid by the Bavarian government, which hosted the summit. Individual companies or the Bavarian government provided at least three lunches and two dinners for the Georgia group.

Germany tops the list of foreign countries importing goods to Georgia, and it's among the top 15 exporting goods from the state.

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Follow Kathleen Foody at http://twitter.com/katiefoody. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/kathleen-foody

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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