The Atlanta Regional Commission presented the 2016 Harry West Visionary leadership award to Craig Lesser, in recognition of his enormous 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.
Mr. Lesser is managing partner of The Pendleton Group, but he’s probably best known for his work as former head of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, where he helped bring more than 40,000 jobs to the state, including 3,000 at KIA Motors.
But what really makes Mr. Lesser stand out is his passion for making the Atlanta region a better place. In the past few years, he has focused much of his attention helping to launch and grow ARC’s Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy.
Named the inaugural chair in 2012, Mr. Lesser enthusiastically set out to recruit people to join the new effort. He talked to strangers on the street, stopped people in the airport, held conversations in hotel lobbies – anywhere he could get someone to listen and get involved.
Mr. Lesser’s passion and determination helped draw more than 500 volunteers into the initiative before he stepped down in 2015.
He continues to serve as chair of the World Trade Center Atlanta, the World Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Public Broadcasting, and chairs the international committee of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
Recognized by several publications as one of Georgia’s most influential people, he is also known in metro Atlanta for his support of the arts.
The Harry West Visionary Leadership Award was established two years ago in memory of ARC’s longest-serving executive director, who exemplified courageous and visionary leadership throughout his career in the public, private and university sectors.
Each year, the physical award is passed from one recipient to the next. It is a magnificent, turned wooden bowl of Red “Leopard” Maple, crafted by Phillip Moulthrop, the middle of three generations of Marietta wood turners.
The symbolism of taking a raw piece of wood and through vision, skill and determination – turning it into something of lasting beauty and value — makes it the perfect symbol for a Visionary Leadership award.