After months of anticipation and weeks of providing appointment-only services, the Consulate General of Brazil for the Southeast officially opened in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Government officials and business leaders joined Consul General Adalnio Senna Ganem for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and champagne toast at the consulate’s eighth-floor offices in the One Alliance Center building in Buckhead.
"We had a long process opening up the consulate, but we are here, and we are here to stay," Mr. Ganem said.
The consulate currently has 21 employees and could become one of Atlanta’s largest with 30 staff members at full capacity. The consulate will soon have 14 telephone lines connected to its computer answering service. It’s currently operating with three lines.
Along with Georgia officials including Gov. Sonny Perdue, Mr. Ganem announced at the State Capitol in February that Brazil would re-establish a full consulate in Atlanta after a seven-year hiatus tied to financial cutbacks in the Brazilian government.
Today’s opening makes this consulate the first established since the government launched a concerted effort to place diplomatic representation near its large communities abroad.
The Atlanta consulate will serve the more than 20,000 Brazilians in Georgia and many others throughout a six-state Southeast region excluding Florida, which has a Brazilian consulate in Miami.
“The Brazilian government is trying to reach directly our community abroad. Having the consulate installed close to the community, this is our first task, to … assist our community,” Mr. Ganem said.
This goal was underscored at the opening by the presence of Oto Maia, Brazil’s recently appointed undersecretary of state for Brazilian communities abroad.
Gustavo Sachs, Mr. Maia’s assistant, confirmed to GlobalAtlanta what Mr. Ganem announced at a breakfast in May, that Brazil’s government hosted a July forum in Rio de Janeiro where the country’s citizens gave feedback on how their government could better serve them in an overseas context.
Mr. Maia said the new consulate serves a dual purpose in fulfilling economic and support functions for Brazilian citizens and Americans with interests in Brazil.
“It will be a channel for trade, and investment and economic activity. We hope that it will be an interface, a link between the economies of Georgia and Brazil,” he said.
Ken Stewart, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, represented the state at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
He praised the investment of Brazilian companies in Georgia and emphasized the strategic importance of the country in its region.
“We find ourselves in Georgia being more and more international every day, and we call ourselves the gateway to the Americas. But let me get real for a second. We may be more of the gateway to North America and certainly Brazil is the gateway to South America,” Mr. Stewart said.
Brazil is Georgia’s 11th largest export destination. Georgia is Brazil’s third-largest state trading partner in the U.S. behind California and Florida.
Trade between Georgia and Brazil totaled more than $1.3 billion last year. The state exported $415 million in goods to Brazil and imported $915.5 million in goods from there through the Savannah customs district in 2007, an 18.5 percent increase from the previous year.
Seven Brazilian companies have operations in metro Atlanta, and that number should be easier to build with the presence of the consulate as a “testimonial” to Atlanta’s international ascendancy, said John Woodward, the chamber’s director of foreign investment.
“When I go around saying Atlanta is an international city, it reinforces it when you have a career consulate as this one is,” Mr. Woodward told GlobalAtlanta.
In addition to trade ties, Georgia's Sen. Johnny Isakson said in remarks at the event that the U.S. can learn a lot from Brazil’s commitment to energy.
Nearly 90 percent of the cars produced in Brazil in July are flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on any blend of gasoline and ethanol, he said.
“There is not a country in the world that has done more to make itself energy independent and sustainable for the future than Brazil,” said Mr. Isakson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its Western Hemisphere subcommittee.
Georgia officials have shown a desire to build the state’s energy profile by learning from Brazil’s progress in biofuels, particularly in the production of ethanol.
During a trade mission in May, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle met with top executives from Petrobras, Brazil’s largest fuel company, and spoke at a luncheon gathering of 30 executives from energy companies. More about Georgia-Brazil ethanol ties…
Although the consulate is just opening officially, it has been packed with U.S. and Brazilian citizens in the past few months seeking services by appointment until the consulate’s infrastructure is at full force.
“People come here by appointment and we are fully booked every day and usually booked four to five days in advance,” said Ellen Barros, Brazil’s deputy consul general in San Francisco, who is on a three-month assignment to Atlanta to help open the consulate here.
Ms. Barros, a 30-year veteran of Brazil’s diplomatic corps, said that businesspeople or civilians seeking visas for Brazil can have their paperwork processed 24 hours after their appointment.Argentine Consul General Carlos Layus and metro chamber President Sam Williams assisted with the ribbon-cutting.