Georgia Tech hosts Argentina IT delegation

(From left) Mary Waters, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Argentina Consul General Jorge Luis Lopez Menardi; Fernanda Yanson of the Argentina Investment and International Trade Agency, and Juli Golemi, manager of Georgia Tech’s Soft Landings Program. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the Georgia Institute of Technology’s the economic development arm, hosted a delegation of 12 technology companies from Argentina, as part of a multi-city tour to study successful innovation ecosystems.


The 2018 Argentina IT Commercial Mission to Atlanta’s Sept. 18 visit, sponsored by the Consulate General of Argentina and the Argentine American Chamber of Commerce, is designed to give insight into the Atlanta economy and as part of the 12 companies’ longer-term goal of establishing U.S. operations, said Argentina Consul General Jorge Luis Lopez Menardi.


“They’re looking for places to come and explore the possibilities of doing business,” Lopez Menardi said. “We thought the best place for them to come especially regarding an IT  mission would be to come to Georgia Tech. The prestige of the university, the talent and the innovation they are promoting from here, we decided the best place to hold the mission would be here.”


While on campus, the group met with Juli Golemi, manager of the Soft Landings Program at EI2.


Juli Golemi, Georgia Tech’s Soft Landings Program manager, addresses some of the issues foreign companies wanting to do business in the United States face. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Soft Landings, launched in 2018, is a Georgia Tech offering — through its Economic Development Lab (EDL) — that helps foreign companies that want to establish or increase their business operations in Georgia or better understand the U.S. economy. EDL helps communities and organizations apply innovative ideas to economic development in business incubation and commercialization, strategic planning, and economic sustainability.


Soft Landings, Lopez Menardi said, offers what the visiting companies need as they explore doing business in Atlanta and the United States. The group, which includes companies in financial technology, virtual reality, cybersecurity, and gaming, wants to “get to know the environment, how to do business here, and how companies procure here,” Lopez Menardi said, adding they will use what they learn on this fact-finding trip to better prepare them for possible U.S. expansion and connections with American companies.


“They will want to build top from that and come up again with a specific plan of business to offer different companies,” he said, adding the group, which will visit Tech’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), will also visit Chicago to learn about its innovation ecosystem.


In a panel discussion that included Mary Waters, deputy commissioner of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Fernanda Yanson, a foreign trade consultant with the Argentina Investment and International Trade Agency; Lopez Menardi, and Golemi, attendees learned about the different components of Georgia’s successful ecosystem.


Among those components: strong public and private partnerships between state government and industry, a friendly business climate, inter-state agency collaboration, unique assets such as Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and economic diversification, Waters said.


Georgia Department of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Mary Waters explains why Georgia’s focus on innovation is factors into the state being consistently ranked as one of the best places in which to do business. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

“Georgia’s economy is very diverse. We’re strong in agribusiness, we’re strong in aerospace, logistics, medical technologies, ICT, and automotive,” she said.


Underscoring that success model is technology, Waters said, noting the construction boom in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood and how Georgia Tech plays a critical role in that innovation-driven growth and expansion.


“Home Depot, Anthem, Delta Air Lines, Mercedes-Benz — they’re all creating innovation certners here in Atlanta and here in Georgia to take advantage of the Georgia Tech talent that we have. Those are companies and expansions that were not on our radar 10 years ago that now underpin the heart and soul of the Atlanta economy and Georgia’s economy,” Waters said.


“Whether you’re talking about automation technology in the manufacturing space or whether you’re talking about tech in agriculture and agribusiness, or innovation in the development of new technologies that will change the world, Georgia is very much in the heart of that and it gets to the heart of what you’re going to hear from Juli and the rest of Georgia Tech and from the private companies you will meet.”

Georgia Tech Soft Landings Program accepting applications from foreign companies

Brandy Nagel

Innovation Ecosystems’ program manager Brandy Nagel, left, explains the various components of the business and customer relationship to a group of entrepreneurs.

Expanding a business is always an exciting endeavor. It is also a risky proposition, one full of questions, assumptions, and unknowns. While a company may have mastered the manufacturing of a product or service, its marketing, and distribution, that mastery correlates to a particular customer profile within a specific market.


The target customer in a new market may look the same, but may think differently and have different expectations about how something is purchased or distributed. In addition, expanding into a new country brings additional challenges, such as regulations that could be different. These unknowns make the expansion a risky, lengthy and costly process.


The Georgia Tech Soft Landings Program is designed for those foreign companies looking to come to the United States to reduce the risk of expansion into a new market by maximizing a company’s use of time and resources. (Applications are now open.)


Companies take different approaches to solve this issue. They may pay a consulting firm for a market research study. This may be an in-depth study from a statistical point of view, mixed with focus groups results and surveys. While these studies can provide great information, they do not develop skills or personal connections in the entrepreneur or company. Another approach involves sending a company representative to the new target country. This learning approach provides valuable direct contact with the clients and other partners. However, these trips tend to be lone missions without a clear path. This lack of structure usually slows the process down significantly and may not result in the desired outcome.


The Soft Landings program will build capacity in the participating entrepreneurs by providing a structured and systematic approach to exploring the potential expansion to the U.S. market. The Soft Landings program will educate entrepreneurs and company representatives in legal, operational, and other important requirements for operating in the U.S. It will also provide mentorship, guidance, and accountability as participants complete their own business plans with validated assumptions about their clients, partners, and distributors.


The Soft Landings program will make introductions to potential partners and professional service for additional guidance. The content and structured approach will help the entrepreneurs and companies answer questions, validate assumptions and eliminate unknowns, thus reducing the risk of expanding into the United States.

Georgia Tech hosts inaugural University Center Roundtable

Lynne Henkiel

Lynne Henkiel, director of Georgia Tech’s EDA University Center, addresses attendees of the inaugural Atlanta Regional Office University Center Roundtable. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s EDA University Center hosted 13 schools from across the Southeast March 13 and 14 for the inaugural Atlanta Regional Office University Center Roundtable.


An initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), these university centers marshal the resources found in colleges and universities to support regional economic development strategies in areas facing chronic and acute economic distress.


“This meeting was two-fold, for new EDA funding awardees, this was their opportunity to present their plans and discuss what projects they planned to take on,” said Lynne Henkiel, director of Tech’s EDA University Center. “For re-awardees like us at Tech, we shared our success stories regarding past projects and gave guidance on lessons learned from past award cycles.


The conference featured a dozen colleges and universities from the Southeast. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

“It was designed to be an exchange of ideas, strategies and best practices.”


Among the schools in attendance: Georgia Southern University, Auburn, the University of Kentucky, Mississippi State University, Fayetteville State University, Western Carolina University, the University of Florida, University of Tennessee, Tennessee Tech University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of South Carolina.


H. Philip Paradice Jr.

H. Philip Paradice Jr., the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Southeast regional director, discusses EDA funding guidelines for projects. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Georgia Tech has been an EDA award recipient since the program’s inception in the 1980s — the only school with that distinction — since the 1980s.


In her role, Henkiel leads a wide range of outreach activities designed to promote job creation, development of high-skilled regional talent pools, business expansion in innovation clusters, and to create and nurture regional economic ecosystems in the state of Georgia. In addition, the Center seeks to conduct technology-related economic and policy research that will enhance Georgia’s competitive position.


In fiscal year 2017, Tech’s EDA University Center’s work helped save or create 255 jobs and led to private sector investment of $132.9 million in Georgia.


The Georgia Tech EDA University Center is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which is Tech’s economic development and outreach arm.

Georgia Institute of Technology launches initiative to assist international companies seeking to do business in Georgia

14-week Soft Landings Program helps companies understand U.S. market.


The Georgia Institute of Technology has created a program to help foreign companies that want to establish or increase their business operations in the state as well as get a better understanding of the U.S. economy.


The Soft Landings Program is a 14-week-long series of educational instruction workshops to help companies quickly and efficiently assess multiple key factors to assist them in deciding if expansion in the U.S. makes sense, and if so, how.


The effort is focused specifically on foreign small and medium-sized enterprises that want to do business in Georgia.


“Georgia is open for business and as a designated Soft Landings site by the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), we will be working with international companies that want to expand operations here by helping them identify and assess the critical factors affecting that decision,” said Lynne Henkiel, director of innovation ecosystems practices at Innovation Ecosystems. An offering of Tech’s Economic Development Lab (EDL), Innovation Ecosystems works with communities and organizations to analyze and apply innovation-based ideas that drive economic development.


“Our Soft Landings Program will equip them with the tools and tap into our economic development resources by leveraging our education, government, and business relationships.”


Among what participants will learn or receive:


  • Lean Startup Methodology and Customer Validation techniques.
  • Access to experts in the fields of accounting, labor and immigration laws, mergers and acquisitions, and site selection, among others.

While the program will be offered in the spring and the fall in an online, cohort-based model, participants will come to Atlanta for one week of intensive instruction and immersion in Atlanta. There will be follow-up mentorship post-visit.


The program follows InBIA’s designation of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) as a Soft Landings site in 2017. EI2 is Georgia Tech’s business outreach and economic development unit and its dozen programs include EDL.


The Soft Landings designation recognizes entrepreneurship centers that excel in providing international companies with various services to ensure a smooth landing in the United States.


In creating the program, EDL will be working with its state and local economic development partners, including the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Office of International Affairs, and consular offices and trade agencies representing several countries.


“Georgia is a hub of economic development and it continues to attract a lot of interest and investment from foreign companies,” said Juli Golemi, manager of EDL’s Soft Landings Program. “But those firms don’t always know how to navigate the process of establishing operations here. This program that we developed will give companies the critical tools, knowledge, and insight to do that.”


Enrollment for the spring cohort is now open until May 17, 2018 and the cohort will begin on May 31, 2018. (REGISTER HERE)


About the Economic Development Lab (EDL)

Economic Development Lab, an economic development program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, helps communities and organizations apply innovative ideas to economic development. Areas of expertise include business incubation and commercialization, strategic planning, and economic sustainability. EDL helps communities create jobs and become more competitive, by advancing innovation-led economic development by providing expertise and connections to Georgia Tech research and resources. For more information, visit


About the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2)

The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit. It is charged with fulfilling Georgia Tech’s mission and goals of expanded local, regional, and global outreach. EI2 is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. EI2 is creating the next innovation economy, not only for Georgia, but beyond. EI2’s expertise and reach are global in scope, with its programs in innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development serving governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. To learn more, visit