John Hall – Why Georgia?
30 June, 2011
John Hall – Why Georgia?

John Hall is an Atlanta-based American Businessman who certainly loves his Georgia, but is also in love with this Georgia.

He says he likes those famous southern ways in these geographical namesakes. John was in Tbilisi a couple of days ago; we met and had a brief nice talk, mostly focusing on a clearly quintessential question: Why Georgia?

 


As I understood, his reasons for choosing Georgia are solid and plenty. Too little time has passed since Georgia used to be part

of the Soviet Empire, and I would not be surprised if a businessman of any national origin wants to think twice before he ventures his time and capital for investing anywhere on the territory of the former USSR, Georgia not being an exclusion from the rule. But as I noticed, John Hall is very much ready and poised to do business here in Georgia without even a tinge of doubt or hesitation. John met my unabashed question if he saw Georgia as a prosperous country any time soon with a straight answer that he did, adding that Georgia has a real opportunity to prosper if we don’t squander it. This is a comment of a very sincere and dedicated friend. This phrase made me think that I did well to have asked John to find time for this interview. He then added thoughtfully that Georgia could even be an economic engine of the entire region of the South Caucasus. Having heard this, I was encouraged to shower my American respondent with other questions, which were answered just as openly and frankly as the first one:

 

Nug: Are you a loner in the friendship with Georgia, or there are other Americans who would like and are ready to join you?

John: I am certainly not alone. There are many others who would like to be involved. After all, the Atlanta community of Georgians is the second biggest one in the States after New York, and this means a lot for intensive communications.

Nug: Let me ask you one indiscreet question – do you expect to make money here in this Georgia?

John: Of course I do! Why do you think I am here? I am going to be a very successful businessman, and I am intending to make my business profitable here.

Nug: Why do you like it here? What’s so good about this place?

John: Traditions, southern warmth, human habits, hospitality and certainly a business-friendly environment . . .

Nug: Can you easily identify with the Georgian people and their character?

John: I sure can! The other day I was treated the Georgian ‘Chadi’ which is exactly the other Georgian cornbread (laughing). Isn’t this something? Things like this make you feel at home. On a more serious count, we went through the same economic struggle which Georgia is going through right now. Our struggle had a happy end. I am sure this Georgia will repeat the result.

Nug: I terribly hate to go political, but I can’t either help asking this politicized question. Please, don’t answer if you don’t want to. Do Russian-Georgian strained relations bother you in any conceivable way?

John: No! I don’t believe in any immediate danger for Georgia. I am confident though that stronger economic development of Georgia means direct lessening of any danger for this country.

Nug: Do you think our concentration on economy is sufficient and optimal?

John: Yes, but the Georgian people have to be more patient. A rapid development is clearly present in Georgia, but the cherished success may not happen overnight.

Nug: When are you coming back?

John: Soon! The business I am developing here might need my presence in Tbilisi several times a year which is just about enough to catch up with all I need to do as founder and owner.

Nug: Why so often?

John: Because I am working here after all (laughing).

Nug: Is there anything that makes you uncomfortable in Georgia?

John: Certain amount of poverty which needs to be eradicated and the infrastructure which needs to be developed faster. I know that those two issues will take time to be taken care of, but I want to see all that happen sooner than later.

John Hall’s law firm called HBSS (partners’ initials) has an impressive office in Tbilisi, represented by Mathew Allen whom I had the honor to meet too. The Georgian law firm of Eristavi is the partner. The office has been operative since last February. The idea occurred to John as early as in 2007, following the US congressional program ‘Open Worlds’. That’s the time when he had hosted a group of Georgian lawyers in Atlanta within the framework of that program. The meeting was fruitful because John felt then that the business climate in Georgia was good enough to risk. President Bush’s activity in Georgia was also a stimulator. English is a popular business language in Georgia, and the country is oriented on market economy.

Political stability and security are also guaranteed. What else!

When John kindly advised me that he was the chairman of the Tbilisi-Atlanta Sister City Committee, I went totally nostalgic. I was standing at the dawn of those relationships exactly quarter of a century ago. But I felt closer to John’s personality when I found out that he was also active in Friendship Force International without which my American epopee would never have been possible. John Hall’s native Atlanta, as a matter of fact, is my second native town where I have lived and worked for years on television. By the way, during the celebrations dedicated to the 20-year anniversary of sister-city relationships John presented a special mayor-to-mayor plaque, symbolizing the history. The same year, John hosted the business forum in Atlanta together with the state’s Department of Commerce which was dedicated to the theme of doing business in Georgia. Notably, 100 American businessmen had signed up for the event. John is just as active in Georgia-to-Georgia Foundation, which has raised money and will in the future too for the IDP children in Tbilisi. In 2010, Georgia’s First Lady Sandra   Roelofs received the Foundation’s humanitarian award ‘Phoenix’ in Atlanta. By the way, the famous basketball player Zaza Pachulia is on the board of the Foundation together with Georgia’s great friend Keneth Walker of the Emory University. John was actively involved in the trip of five USA congressmen who came to Tbilisi in 2010 and had dinner with President of Georgia. The meeting was meant to better acquaint American politicians with Georgia. During this particular stay in Tbilisi John and his team met with the officials from the Georgia’s ministry of economic development to organize a forum for American investors in Georgia this coming October. And finally, Mr. John Hall is an Honorary Consul of Georgia in Atlanta, Georgia.

I have rarely seen a respondent as smart, loyal, open and benevolent – all those great features just in one man – as John Hall. I definitely was lucky, but I think our Georgia is lucky too to have a friend and partner like him.

(Our mutual friend Dr. Plato Esartia was extremely helpful in organizing this wonderful meeting and useful interview, for which the Georgian Journal is very grateful).

 

 

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