A senior executive with The Trump Organization tells EurasiaNet.org that he has identified a potential site for a Trump Tower in Georgia.
“I identified two projects -- one more specifically than the other -- that I think Mr. Trump will be interested in for a Trump Tower development,” said Michael Cohen, an executive
vice-president at The Trump Organization, the private company that handles American real estate mogul Donald Trump’s property development and management projects.
Cohen, a special counsel to Trump, is visiting 13 potential development sites in Tbilisi and the Black Sea port town of Batumi as part of a two-day tour arranged by Silk Road Group, a Georgian property development and transportation company. [For details, see the EurasiaNet.org archive.]
“Now is the fun part . . . [we] evaluate the potential project based on a multitude of criteria and make a decision as to whether or not the internal development team . . . will make a return visit,” Cohen said in a July 14 phone interview between meetings with senior government officials.
He would not specify the size or location of the potential investment, noting only that “everything with Mr. Trump is large.” Any investment would be “big [figures] – lots and lots of zeros,” he said.
“This is a business, Mr. Trump makes money. So we are going to take a look at how other hotels in the region do,” he said, adding that Trump is interested in “everything.”
Cohen, who described Georgia as “a fun country,” said he was “exceptionally impressed” with Batumi, where Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and senior officials gave him a personal tour of the town. Batumi, a popular regional resort spot with a population of about 121,000, has undergone extensive renovations over the past several years.
Drawing on comparisons with Europe, New Jersey and Las Vegas, Cohen applauded Saakashvili’s vision and development plans for the city. “I had seen photographs from three years ago. Batumi three years ago versus Batumi today -- all I can say is ‘Wow,’” he said.
“President Saakashvili is a real visionary, as is Mr. Trump. And putting the two together, I think they can do great things in Georgia,” Cohen forecast on July 12.
But one key question still remains.
“It is now a question of whether or not the style and the social-economic class is present in Georgia -- whether or not there is an interest from that social-economic class to own a Trump property,” he said after his Batumi tour.
Giorgi Ramishvili, one of the founders of Silk Road Group and an initiator of Cohen’s visit, told EurasiaNet.org on July 12 that the company is optimistic about a future investment.
“Two days is just to show him the country, show him the spirit of the people. I hope that also the economical climate, the government, the members of government …will convince him that Georgia is an area that is . . . really safe,” Ramishvili said.
Demonstrating that post-war Georgia is safe for investment is a key government priority as well. Foreign direct investment, the economy’s primary fuel, shrank by more than 41 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to $75.5 million, official statistics show.
Molly Corso is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.