Perdue's in China, but not for games

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is in China this week, but he is not there for the Olympics, which begin this weekend in Beijing.

Perdue is participating in a Regional Leaders Conference in Jinan, located in the Shandong province.

Wednesday morning, the governor took part in a conference call with Georgia reporters. He said the excitement people are feeling in China is comparable to 12 years ago when Georgians were days away from the start of the Atlanta Olympics.

"The Chinese are giddy over the prospects of the Olympics," Perdue said. "It brings back a lot of memories and expectations we had in the weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremonies in 1996. As we did, they want to put their best foot forward."

One of the reasons Georgia joined the alliance that is meeting this week is the national exposure and recognition Atlanta gained more than a decade ago. Canada, Germany, Brazil, China, Austria and South Africa are participating in the conference.

"There is no question," Perdue said. "I wouldn't be here if not for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The Chinese said as much today. Everyone knows about Atlanta."

The alliance formed in 2002 with the goals of developing relationships and exchanging ideas on topics of mutual interest. Georgia recently joined the group, which has been talking about energy conservation and healthcare this week.

By building relationships, Perdue said it can only help Georgia in its economic development efforts.

"As we have found in international economic development, it is more about personal relationships than even domestic economic development," Perdue said. "We developed the relationships with the Koreans and Kia, and they placed trust in us by placing a large plant in West Georgia."

Perdue is building relationships with leaders of the Shandong province, which is a little larger than Georgia geographically, but much more populated. There are 92 million people in the province, which is 10 times the population of Georgia.

"What we are finding is when people want to go out of their country and locate in the U.S. market, they depend on prior existing relationships that have been fruitful," the governor said.

This Perdue's 15th international trip in six years and his second to China this year.