Thursday, March 21, 2013

Consular and trade officials take tour of Thrush Aircraft

Thibauld Quirion, the USA director for Enterprise Rhone-Alpes International, a global economic development facilitator, talks with Thrush Aircraft's sales and marketing director Eric Rojek during a tour of the Albany plant Thursday, March 21, 2013.

ALBANY, Ga. — George Novak was surprised Thursday to find, almost 5,000 miles from his home country, a little piece of home at an agricultural aircraft manufacturer in Albany.  

The Consul General of the Czech Republic noticed, as he was walking among the aircraft parts at Thrush Aircraft, that the engines that power the planes that spray crops the world over are originally manufactured in his home country.

That Georgia, Czech connection is exactly what state and local economic development officials are hoping grows after dignitaries and trade officials from 23 different countries took a tour through Albany Thursday.

"It's all about learning about different opportunities and learning what's happening in different parts of Georgia," Claudio Leoncavallo, the Consul General of Switzerland and the dean of the Atlanta Consular Corps, said. "Most of my colleagues and myself cover a large territory in the south and we travel to many states so we don't have that many opportunities to travel in Georgia itself so it's important for us to learn what's happening and report to our head offices to draw attention to this region and look for opportunities to create jobs both here in Georgia and in our home countries."

The three day tour showcases Southwest Georgia to an audience that it seldom has an opportunity to see. Thursday, representatives of Haiti, Canada, Belgium, Argentina, France and many other countries strolled through the Thrush manufacturing complex near the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport learning about opportunities for import and export with Georgia-grown businesses.

Albany is no stranger to international business dealings. In 2010, Coats and Clark, a U.K.-based thread and yarn manufacturer expanded their facilities in Albany; an event that brought Paul Forman, the group chief executive and member of the Coats board of directors, across the pond to cut the ribbon on a new 400,000 square-foot distribution center.

Thrush has grown on the international stage since taking over the Ayers product line in 2003. The company now has aircraft in 80 countries being used for applications that stretch way beyond the original crop dusting its predecessors established themselves with, including fire fighting, drug eradication, rice sowing and environmental cleanup.

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Thrush Aircraft is very much involved in international trade. Trade officials and representatives from 23 countries continued their tour of Albany and southwest Georgia with a stop at a growing crop duster manufacturer. 

But for some on the tour, this specialized aircraft can provide more than agriculture opportunities.

It's a continental visit to Thrush Aircraft. Representatives from 23 countries getting a look at one of America's top crop duster manufacturers.

"We are always looking at ways to improve food security in the country," said Cynthia Blanford, who represents Liberia. A post-war west African Nation. "We are importing 80% of everything that we eat on an annual basis at $80 million a year," she said.

Last year thrush rolled out 50 planes. "That's about a plane a week and we've actually increased our production this year, our goal is to go to 65," said Eric Rojek VP of Sales for Thrush.

Thrush has sold aircraft to buyers in 80 countries. And while it's met the agricultural needs of many these, dusters not only spray crops. In some places they save lives. "Malaria is one of our biggest challenges," said Blanford.

"It's currently in operation Africa fighting malaria as we speak," said Rojek said of his plane.

And as Liberia looks to combat that problem as well as well its food needs. This trip could prove worthwhile for both the country and the South Georgia company.

"We certainly welcome the opportunities for companies like Thrush to sit down and meet with me and my counterparts to figure out how me might develop a collaborative relationship," said Blanford.

One that could equal more growth for an already growing at home manufacturer.

In The VIP guests later traveled to Thomasville and Southwest Georgia Technical College. Last year, Georgia earned more than $36 billion from international trade.

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