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In the first half of this series, international companies’ locations and expansions in the State of Georgia were investigated using Georgia Department of Economic Development Data from the 2015 fiscal year. Gwinnett County stood out, with half of its new locations and expansions coming from international companies. In this post economic development strategies, demographic changes, and cultural assets that could affect international company locations in Gwinnett County are explored.
According to Partnership Gwinnett (a community and economic development initiative of the Gwinnett Chamber), the county is home to more than 600 international companies. Its website recently featured an article about the new location of Linhai Powersports USA, a Chinese-owned company in Norcross. Within the article, Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks was quoted saying, “Gwinnett’s vast international representation and skilled talent pool, not only help attract global companies such as Linhai to the community, but also enable them to thrive here.” Nick Masino, Senior Vice President and Chief Economic Development Officer at Partnership Gwinnett, credits metro area assets like Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and world-class educational institutions, the county’s award winning public school system, interstate access to northeast American markets, and Gwinnett’s established history as a leader in international business. When recruiting international companies, Masino is able to point to the multitude of successful international companies already in the county.
The recently updated Partnership Gwinnett 3.0 Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan refers to enhancing and expanding the approach to international business recruitment. The plan’s strategy focuses on fostering relationships through face-to-face interactions, such as visits to target markets. It stresses “consistency in follow-up with those relationships.” The plan also discusses creating “an atmosphere that is inviting and comforting to a foreign investor” as a way to set it apart from other communities.
“The cultural and educational ties that international investors and their family members may have to a community can often be as important as any business or government relationships in forming strong bonds that result in investment and trade.” (Partnership Gwinnett 3.0 Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan)
Demographic shifts over the past decade have made Gwinnett County one of the most diverse areas in the country. Of the Atlanta region, Gwinnett County saw the highest population growth between 2000 and 2010 growing by 37 percent—over 200,000 people. This growth is due in large part to new immigrant residents in the county. Today, American Community Survey data shows that one in four residents of Gwinnett County are foreign born (ACS, 5-year estimates, 2012). This is a higher share than any other county in the Atlanta region (Figure 1) and shows major change from 1990 (5.0 percent of total population in Gwinnett County was foreign born) and 2000 (16.9 percent). Gwinnett County is now “majority-minority” with a non-Hispanic white population at 42 percent (ACS, 5-year estimates, 2014).
The county is home to many organizations with programs and offerings that can benefit immigrants: Latin American Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, and several bi-national chambers of commerce. The presence of these organizations results from the area’s growing immigrant community. Immigrant entrepreneurs have also responded to the demand for businesses that serve the diverse population by opening grocery stores like Hong Kong Supermarket (Figure 2) and shopping centers like Global Mall (Figure 3). Buford
Highway (Figure 4), Norcross, and other places in Gwinnett County have become cultural meccas in Atlanta for cuisine, festivals, and community. This perhaps draws back to the importance of cultural community ties for international investors and their family members to build strong bonds resulting in more investment and trade, referenced in the Partnership Gwinnett Plan.
A strategic and progressive economic development team, demographic shifts, and a thriving immigrant community all contribute to Gwinnett’s success in attracting and retaining international companies.
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The Center for Economic Development Research is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. Its core mission is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive.