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Trade officials come calling
Tour visits center for kangaroos
2 VIP Tour pic 3
Canada’s Consul General Brian Oak was among the trade officials participating in Friday’s VIP Tour stop at the Kangaroo Conservation Center. Oak said he was impressed with the center, as well as the well-being of the animals. - photo by Photo/Elizabeth Hamilton

The Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawson County played host to more than 25 foreign trade officials Friday.


The group, made up of top diplomats and business officials from 20 countries, visited the site as part of a three-day International VIP Tour of north Georgia.


“This was an exciting day and we were glad to welcome this group of people here,” said Linda Williams, president of the local chamber of commerce. “This tour is in its 23rd year, and this is the first time they have made Dawson County one of their stops.”


Williams said the center, which has some 300 kangaroos, was chosen because of its uniqueness.


“No one else outside of Australia has the amount of kangaroos that we do here,” she said. “We are very proud of this facility and proud to have it in Dawson County.”


The Georgia Department of Economic Development organizes the VIP Tour. Maggie Large, a department spokeswoman, said the event focuses on businesses, educational and sports facilities, and economic development partnerships throughout the state.


“Each year a specific region of the state is highlighted to give the consulates an opportunity to get out of the Atlanta area for a taste of the many things the state has to offer,” Large said.


“The goal of the tour is to hopefully encourage our diplomats to come back to the places we visit and explore more on their own.”


Brian Oak, the consulate general of Canada, enjoyed his visit to the kangaroo center.


“I was impressed with the quality of the facility and the conservation efforts made to preserve the lives of the kangaroos,” he said. “I was also impressed with the well-being of the animals. They have done an excellent job here.”


Paulo Pinto, consulate general of Brazil, took note of the center’s variety of kangaroos, as well as its birds and reptiles.


Pinto embraced the center’s up-close experience, adding that he was intrigued by how well the facility was run.


According to director Roger Nelson, the center is dedicated to preserving kangaroos through captive breeding and public education.


“Currently exhibiting kangaroos of nine species, our center has successfully bred and cared for over a dozen different species of marsupials in the past 26 years,” Nelson said.


This year’s VIP Tour also included stops in Dahlonega, Flowery Branch, Gainesville and Helen. In Forsyth County, the group visited Hansgrohe Inc., which manufactures decorative bathroom and kitchen fixtures.


Among the other countries represented in the traveling delegation were the Czech Republic, Japan, Nigeria and Switzerland.


“Every year, Georgia’s consular corps looks forward to getting to know more of Georgia by way of the VIP Tour,” said Amanda Hodges, consul general and trade commissioner of Australia.


“It’s an excellent way for us to reinforce our social, political, economic and cultural ties with Georgia’s communities.”


E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at