We recently had the pleasure of hosting the 31st annual VIP International Tour, a three-day event that showcases a region of Georgia to Atlanta-based Consular Corps. This year’s tour welcomed 21 international representatives to Middle Georgia, including six Consuls General and the Dean of the Consular Corps. The countries represented span four continents and include top trading partners, investor nations, tourism and study abroad destinations, major allies and friends.
Peachtree City was the first stop on the VIP Tour, Zac Brown’s Southern Ground to be exact. Our guests had the privilege of getting a backstage tour of their incredible facility. Owned by the three-time GRAMMY winners, The Zac Brown Band, Zac Brown’s Southern Ground is a unique lifestyle brand that is based on a strong belief in philanthropy. Each of the distinctive companies in the Southern Ground family is brimming with incredibly passionate artists brought under one roof to work together and create.
Our next stop was Senoia in Coweta County. Ten years ago, Senoia was a quiet town with only five businesses operating along their Main Street and a few tourists. Today, the booming town has more than 50 thriving businesses on its main stretch, which is frequently visited by tourists from all over the world. Sure, many tourists visit the area due to Senoia’s Southern Charm, but also because the most watched show on cable television, “The Walking Dead” has called Senoia home for the last six seasons.
When our time in Senoia came to a close, we hopped on the bus and headed to Warm Springs in Meriwether County where we had lunch, and the opportunity to speak with local officials, as well as GDEcD’s Chief Operating Officer, Bert Brantley.
Next stop was in Richland where we had the opportunity to visit Richland Rum – Richland Distilling Company. Owner, Erik Vonk, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the distillery and taught us all about sugarcane farming. Of course, our visit to Richland Rum would not have been complete without a tasting. Our VIP tour guests enjoyed a sample of Richland Rum alongside oysters, cheese, crackers and other treats. Richland Rum was featured in numerous magazines such as Garden & Gun, Cooking Light Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Journal Constitution, NPR and many more. Richalnd Rum is a Georgia Grown member and an agri-tourism destination located in historic downtown Richland.
As day one came to an end, we made our way to Lake Blackshear in Cordele-Crisp County where we enjoyed a wonderful boat ride on the lake as well as dinner at the Lake Blackshear Resort. Did you know that Cordele calls itself the Watermelon Capital of the World? Cordele has retained its agricultural roots, which has helped the region maintain its success today, as agriculture is the No. 1 economic driver in the county.
After a good night’s rest at Lake Blackshear Resort, we woke up bright and early to begin our journey to Perry in Houston County. Our first stop was Lane Southern Orchards for a Georgia Grown breakfast hosted by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Our guests enjoyed a great southern breakfast with fresh strawberries grown right here in our state.
Next, we were on to Sandler AG, a German textile manufacturer. In 2015, during an economic development mission to Germany, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Sandler AG would complete construction of a manufacturing plant in Perry, representing an investment of more than $30 million and the creation of more than 140 new jobs in Houston County. We we’re able to tour the completed facility to see up-close how Sandler creates textile and supplies various industries.
A visit to Warner Robins was next on the agenda. We took a trip the Museum of Aviation where we had lunch and a performance by Miss America 2016, Betty Cantrell. Did you know that the Museum of Aviation is the second largest museum in the United States Air Force and the fourth most visited museum in the Department of Defense? And, it’s free to visit. Following the museum, we visited Middle Georgia State University where we met with the Center of Innovation for Aerospace and learned about Georgia’s thriving aerospace sector.
Our final stop was the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon. Also known as the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World,” Macon is home to approximately 350,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees which bloom in late March every year. Their annual festival lasts for 10 days.
All good things must come to an end, and as we wrapped up the VIP tour we began with breakfast at the Griffin Welcome Center and Museum. Our next stop was Otsuka Chemical Company, Ltd., a diversified Japanese chemical manufacturer that offers products for a wide range of applications. Otsuka established its North American Headquarters in Griffin in 2014.
We sent our VIP Tour guests off in style with a visit to Atlanta Motor Speedway where they were able to take a high-speed ride in a pace car around the track! We are incredibly thankful for all of our local partners who hosted our international guests, and helped make the 31st annual VIP tour a success, and we look forward to another grand adventure next year.
Click for a full list of Consular Offices.