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Metro Business Thought Leadership

John Woodward on the Importance of Global Commerce in Atlanta and Internationally

By Madgie Robinson 

With the world’s busiest airport in our backyard coupled with our diversity of talent, higher education institutions and quality of life, Atlanta has become a top contender for foreign-owned enterprises or FOEs to expand and target new opportunities in diverse global markets. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1996 Summer Olympics when the world noticed how much the region had to offer which created pathways for international trade and economic development that transformed the region into what it is today. 

As a result, business growth throughout the state of Georgia and city of Atlanta has welcomed thousands of companies such as Porsche AG, Adidas, Hyundai Motor Group and more. Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Vice President of Global Commerce John Woodward described the critical role global commerce has played in growing the economic, cultural and political spheres in the metro Atlanta region. 

Woodward, a 25-year economic development professional, has assisted hundreds of international and domestic enterprises exploring expansion across borders. His role at the Metro Atlanta Chamber involves consulting with foreign-owned enterprises considering U.S. market entry or expansion, and connecting them with relevant corporate, government and academic parties. 

The global commerce team is one of three elements of the economic development division at Metro Atlanta Chamber involved with all business activity that is cross-border. 

“With a global perspective, we make the business case for Metro Atlanta to foreign-owned enterprises,” said Woodward.  

The team also assists a range of locally based companies considering expanding their businesses internationally, principally via export growth. 

“The objective, in this case, is to help our local companies grow their operations in the metro area by broadening their business for a new global market.” said Woodward. 

“The Rolodex of the global commerce team is one of our most valuable assets. The capacity to make relevant connections is paramount. This applies to both FOEs entering the market, and to local companies exploring overseas.” 

When doing business with foreign countries, the global commerce team has expertise on what geographical areas and companies to focus on and what would be mutually beneficial for both parties. They also focus on countries whose businesses traditionally perform well when coming to Atlanta, predicting how each company would thrive in the market. 

“And to continue with this archaic analogy, the most well-worn cards in our Rolodex are those of our partners – other economic development organizations, governments, academics, professional service providers, binational chambers, trade offices and consulates – because they are integral to our collective success in growing international trade and investment in this region,” according to Woodward. “This collaboration across all groups is what sets metro Atlanta apart from other regions in the U.S.”  

Countries that have traditionally invested often in metro Atlanta include the U.K., Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, and Canada. 

“We strategically focus on geographic areas that are strong investors and whose ecosystem strengths generally match ours,” stated Woodward. “For example, Fintech is strong in London and Amsterdam; technical manufacturing is strong in Japan and South Korea.”  

Belgium is also one of the largest trading partners with Georgia, investing in the region since 1834. Ties between the two continue to develop, with 54 Belgium companies present in the state of Georgia. 

In June, metro Atlanta hosted the Belgian Economic Mission to the U.S., the largest international business delegation to visit Atlanta since the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. 

The delegation included more than 250 companies and 400 representatives led by Her Royal Highness, Princess Astrid of Belgium. 

When asked about the Belgian mission, “[it] was a huge success as Belgian companies and officials were given a topflight introduction to the region,” said Woodward. 

Beyond the access to the world from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, headquartered in Atlanta are 15 fortune 500 companies and 11 fortune 1000 companies with top businesses such as Chick-Fil-a, Home Depot and Coca-Cola originating from the metro area. 

“Atlanta is a major U.S. metropolitan area with all the assets one expects to find in a major metropolitan area, – deep corporate bench strength, culture and culinary prowess, multifaceted diversity, professional sports – [yet] a cost of living and business that is more like a secondary or tertiary market,” Woodward described. 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport – the busiest airport in the world, brings international people from all over the world to Atlanta. In Atlanta, passengers are able to connect to the rest of the U.S. being one of the first stops for those traveling from overseas. 

“A key driver of Atlanta is the international and domestic connectivity of the Hartsfield Jackson airport with nonstop flights to many of our target markets,” highlighted Woodward. 

The business culture and community within metro Atlanta make up a talented workforce of 2.9 million as of June 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“The educated and talented workforce in Metro Atlanta is a core element of any economic development plan project,” said Woodward.

Adding to the business culture, the overall diversity of Atlanta attracts foreign businesses to the region, making it easier to adapt and build connections. 

“It’s just like the strong international community within metro Atlanta where travelers can come and fit in with our systems, connect with others and immediately grow in this market,” said Woodward. 

For more information on Metro Atlanta Chamber events and announcements, visit: 



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