Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and a delegation of 39 business leaders came to Israel this week on a mission to strengthen and explore new areas for economic trade relations and cooperation with Israel. "Israel is a world leader in business and technology, and already one of Georgia's major trading partners. About 30 percent of our exports are to Israel," said Sonny Perdue, governor of the State of Georgia since 2003, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "We are excited about being here to encourage and forge new ties with Israeli companies, for example, in the area of nanotechnology." The trade mission, which includes officials from the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and business leaders from targeted Georgia industries, will take the governor to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Yokne'am-Megiddo, Ra'anana and Nazareth. The governor and GDEcD officials will meet with Israeli governmental leaders and potential business investors in the technology and bioscience industries. Georgia is one of 22 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel. In 2004, Georgia exports to Israel totaled $172.6 million. More than 40 Israeli companies have their US headquarters in Georgia. "Israeli companies such as Amdocs and Nice established their presence in Georgia and we want them to win market share to propel Georgia into the future," said Perdue. Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines announced a new direct flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv that will begin next spring. Atlanta will become the only southeastern US city with a direct connection to Israel. "The new Delta flight gives us another advantage as we work to recruit new business and tourism prospects in Israel," said Perdue. "This makes Georgia a virtual neighbor to potential Israeli investors and tourists." He added that he authorized the purchase of $5m of Israeli bonds in January 2005, thanks to a Jewish community that has been very vibrant and engaged in supporting Israel. The governor will participate in the Prime Minister's Economic Conference on Thursday. "Speaking at the conference in making the showcase for Georgia, I intend to enhance our state's position as Israel's primary gateway to the Southeast. I believe we share a lot of work ethic characteristics. The South has also had to work hard to establish itself. We empathize with Israel and the many odds it has to defy," said Perdue.