Craig Lesser, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, has left McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, taking with him two of the law firm’s international public affairs clients, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia and a major Kia supplier, Sewon America Inc.

Mr. Lesser has formed a company, the JEL Group LLC, which will work with Kia in marketing and other areas as the Korean automaker prepares to open its $1.2 billion manufacturing plant in West Point this year.

Sewon, which last year announced plans to build a factory in LaGrange that will bring 700 jobs and $170 million of investment over a three-year period, will join Kia at JEL Group, Mr. Lesser said.

Sewon will produce stamped chassis, body components and decorative trim pieces for Kia in the 450,000-square-foot facility, which will be located on 65 acres in the Callaway South Industrial Park in Troup County.

Sewon was also previously a McKenna Long public affairs client, said Mr. Lesser.

As Georgia’s economic development commissioner from 2004-2006, Mr. Lesser was instrumental in recruiting Kia.  Mr. Lesser had been head of international public affairs at McKenna Long since he left the state government post.

Mr. Lesser has also joined a new consulting firm, The Pendleton Consulting Group LLC, that will work on international economic development, utility regulation and legislation and government affairs. Joining Mr. Lesser at Pendleiton will be Dwight Evans, retired executive vice president of Southern Co. and Phil Jacobs, former president of Georgia operations for BellSouth Telecommunications Inc. Pendleton will likely have offices in downtown Atlanta, Mr. Lesser said.

International investment is the “the future of growth and prosperity in Georgia,” Mr. Lesser told GlobalAtlanta in a Jan. 2 interview.

The new ventures are the culmination of three decades of working on international business development, he said.

”I’ve built up a pretty good portfolio of contacts,” Mr. Lesser said. “The international flavor of this state has grown so much in the last few years. I want to continue that. The whole idea is to continue marketing Georgia as a great place to do business.”

Mr. Lesser plans to remain active in a number of Georgia organizations that focus on international issues. He chairs the Georgia Chamber of Commerce International Programs committee, the Vienna International Exchange and the World Trade Center Atlanta. He is vice chair of the Georgia China Alliance.

For more information, call Mr. Lesser at (404)-272-2854 or e-mail him at