Craig Lesser is the Chairman of the Pendleton Group, which provides governmental affairs, economic development and strategic communications counsel to governments and businesses.
Lesser served as Georgia’s Commissioner of Economic Development from 2004 to 2007, where he directed efforts to recruit new businesses, expand existing businesses and increase Georgia’s global trade and tourism revenues. During Lesser’s tenure as Commissioner, the department he led was responsible for more than $8 billion in new investment in Georgia, including the Kia Motors assembly plant in West Point, Georgia.
Mr. Lesser oversaw the expansion of Georgia’s international presence, bringing to ten the number of countries with state representation. During this period, he also served as president of Hemisphere, Inc., a public-private partnership that led efforts to bring the Secretariat of the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas to Georgia.
Mr. Lesser has served in numerous leadership roles in business, the media, and government. He was as a managing director of McKenna Long & Aldridge (now Denton’s), where he led its international affairs consulting group. He served in key executive leadership roles at Southern Company and its subsidiaries, including vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Georgia Power Company, President and CEO of Mirant-New York, and senior vice president of external affairs at Mirant-Americas. He started his career as a DJ, news announcer and talk show host at various radio stations, beginning at WBHF in Cartersville, Ga. and ending at WSB in Atlanta.
He is active in the community, most recently serving as chairman of the board of CIFAL Atlanta, a UN-based initiative to train local officials, most frequently in Latin America, on governance, economic development, women’s and health issues. Until 2016, he served as chairman of Georgia Public Broadcasting. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech and the Carter Center Board of Councilors. Recently, he was named to the advisory committee of the J.W. Fanning Leadership Institute of the University of Georgia. He has served on the Boards of Visitors of both Emory University and the University of Georgia. He served on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s Marketing Task Force for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Until 2016, Lesser chaired the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Competitiveness Initiative and the World Trade Center Atlanta. He chaired the Georgia Chamber of Commerce International Committee in 2013 and the chamber’s bi-national committee in 2014. In 2011, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal named him to serve as one of twenty-three members of the steering committee of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative. He also served as Ga. Gov. Brian Kemp’s transition team as advisor on economic development.
In 2016, The Atlanta Regional Commission presented its Harry West Visionary leadership award to Lesser, in recognition of his contributions to improving the economy of the Atlanta region and Georgia, and for his dedication to making metro Atlanta a better place to live and work. In 2017, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Georgia International Awards event. The November 2022 issue of Georgia Trend Magazine named Lesser to its inaugural list of Living Legends. In its January 2020 issue, the magazine, for the 12th year, named Mr. Lesser to its list of 100 Most Influential Georgians. Most recently, he was awarded the Medallion of the Governor General of Canada for his efforts to preserve strong business and economic ties between the U.S. and Canada. Mr. Lesser has lectured on economic development at universities and seminars around the world, including China, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr. Lesser received his BA from the State University of New York College at Oneonta, where he has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumna, and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, Leadership Georgia and the Regional Leadership Institute.
He and his wife Nancy now reside in Nashville, TN and have two daughters, Ellen and Julie.