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World Trade Center Savannah celebrates regional effort in 2016

Licensed just a little more than 5 years ago, World Trade Center Savannah has already distinguished itself among the 300-plus WTC associations across the globe for its world-class services in helping area companies expand internationally as well as selling the region to foreign companies looking to invest.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the WTC board heard chairman Scott Center detail the organization’s top 10 accomplishments for 2016.

At No. 1 was the organization’s effort in partnering with 15 different economic development authorities as well as the City of Savannah to provide support and services in bringing jobs and investment to the region.

“Everyone in this community has been talking about the need for regional economic development efforts forever,” Center said. “When SEDA created the World Trade Center, it gave us a great tool and pathway to reach out beyond Chatham County to development authorities from Screven County to Valdosta.

“We’re already proving that we are stronger together.”

SEDA president and CEO Trip Tollison urged WTC Savannah regional partners gathered for the meeting to take that message home with them.

“One of the greatest things World Trade Center Savannah can do for a region is help our partner development authorities help their hometown companies do business internationally,” he said.

“In fact, I would argue that’s probably one of the most powerful returns on your investment as a WTC partner that you will see.”

Brynn Grant, CEO of SEDA and vice president of WTC Savannah, agreed.

“It’s important to note that the revenue generated by regional partners is directly related to the services we provide,” she said. “It’s never intended to be a ‘here’s money, now I’m a member.’

“Instead, it should be that you’re paying money as a regional partner so you can ask us for research assistance, project assistance, protocol information,” Grant said.

“You should know you now have a partner in international business development, whether it’s to help a specific company or the development authority itself.”

EB-5 now a reality

At No. 2 in 2016, Center said, was approval from the United States Citizen and Immigration Service to establish the Savannah World Trade Center for Investment LLC, a joint effort of the WTC Savannah and SEDA for the purpose of supporting a local EB-5 center.

Also known as the Immigrant Investor Program, EB-5 was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy and create jobs through an influx of funds from well-heeled, highly vetted foreign investors.

In return, the investor gets temporary visas for his or her family, with a potential fast-track – four or five years – to permanent U.S. residency.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a very long time,” he said. “It’s a real feather in our cap, one that we hope will begin growing jobs here in the now-so-distant future.”

Under-the-radar help

Coming in at No.3 on the top 10 list last year is something that happens mainly behind the scenes, an essential service that requires countless hours of research and work on the part of WTC Savannah staff, Center said.

“We managed 95 trade services project requests from partners, prospects and other World Trade centers to advance business interests and promote job growth,” he said.

World Trade Center Savannah often times will conduct market assessments for a regional partner to help inform an international growth strategy, Grant said.

“For example, as part of one market assessment conducted in 2016, a 50-page document was gathered with in-depth data on seven countries selected by the company. Data included but was not limited to, the ease of doing business for each country, locations within the countries that offered convenient access to ports, 5- and 10-year economic forecasts and operational risks for each country.

“By providing detailed data, the company was able to narrow their focus to one or two countries of interest and begin pursuing their efforts in a more efficient and effective manner,” she said.

Other trade services projects include detailed import and export data and regulations. From trade data on a commodity to detailed research on documentation requirements for exporting, no two import/export data and regulations request look the same, Grant said.

In 2016, World Trade Center Savannah helped inform a partner of the competitive pricing of a product internationally and for another, helped determine the depth of commodities they would be willing to import based on their duty rate.

“That’s the nuts-and-bolts of World Trade Center services, the things that go on every day,” Center said.

The rest of the list

Completing the top 10 for 2016, WTC Savannah:

4. Hosted 18 inbound delegations with 207 delegates and coordinated five outbound trade and business development efforts for partners.

5. Facilitated 117 business matchmaking meetings regionally.

6. Hosted 17 Global Education Projects with 338 participants.

7. Partnered with Georgia Power to host eight Canadian companies from World Trade Center Winnipeg for the Savannah Gateway Regional Showcase during the Savannah Music Festival.

8. Led a delegation of three regional businesses to Canada for Centrallia, a business development matchmaking event.

9. For SEDA, organized and supported outbound business development and trade mission to Ireland with the City of Savannah, Visit Savannah and the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.

10. Was recognized as one of the most active World Trade Centers during the WTC General Assembly in Algeria.

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