Sonny Perdue Talks Global

Tetley Lecture Series-135(2).jpg

Former governor challenges businesses to think global in KSU address Former Georgia Gov. Sonny…

Georgia (Oct 6, 2011)

Former governor challenges businesses to think global in KSU address

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue challenged the business community to think global and look for business opportunities in emerging countries with a growing middle class during a talk to a Coles College of Business audience on Oct. 4.

“It is a race out there, a competitive global race,” Perdue told an audience of about 250 Coles College of Business faculty, administrators, alumni, graduate students and business partners gathered at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta. “There is a growing competitive world out there in places [whose names] we can’t even pronounce.”

Perdue, who is responsible for raising Georgia’s global profile during his tenure as governor from 2003 to January 2011, was the guest speaker at the Coles College of Business’ “20th Annual Tetley Distinguished Leader Lecture Series.” Earlier this year, Perdue founded Perdue Partners, LLC, a logistics and trading firm that helps small- and medium-sized businesses go global.

“We’ve got some great opportunities out there,” said Perdue, who hailed trade as the ultimate peacemaker. “Think big. Go global.”

Kathy Schwaig, interim dean of the Coles College of Business, said that choosing Perdue as speaker was “an obvious choice” because the business school is putting more energy and effort into revitalizing international business education. “The future economy is going to be an export economy,” she told the crowd.  

Kennesaw State University president Daniel S. Papp touted the university’s commitment to internationalization. “The Coles College has been deeply involved in things international for a number of years,” he said. “We at Kennesaw State University are very proud of the things we do internationally. This is our ‘Year of Peru.’ ”

The Coles College of Business has had a long-standing partnership with ASEBUSS, one of the top business schools in Romania.  In February, the Coles College launched a partnership with the India China America Institute, a well respected thought leader on economic and geopolitical issues involving the United States and the world’s largest emerging economies.

Perdue admitted that he did not always embrace a global view. Growing up in a farm in middle Georgia “my world was very narrow and very focused,” he said. It wasn’t until late in his career as a Georgia senator and later as governor that he expanded his worldview.

“You realize how minuscule we are and how big the world is out there,” he said. “There’s a better wide world out there and a bigger world than I was exposed to.”

Perdue, who went to veterinary school and practiced as a vet for three years before going back home to launch an agribusiness, challenged audience members to do what they love.

“You gotta do what you love in life,” Perdue said. “Be courageous enough to do what you love.”

Perdue said that Georgia should focus on its strengths  to become globally competitive:  its status as a coastal state with the fourth largest container port in the U.S., the busiest airport in the world and a highly educated work force. Because of its geography, Georgia, the ninth largest state, was destined to be “a trading center.” During his years as governor, Georgia pursued ties and sold itself all over the world.

“Location, location, location is what we were selling globally,” Perdue said.

Perdue encouraged Georgia businesses to seek out endless opportunities in emerging countries, which are seeing the emergence of an affluent middle class “that wants quality stuff.”

Perdue also challenged the audience members to build on their strengths. “Build on your strengths and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You must get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Be willing to stand alone if necessary. There’s nothing that compares to a clear conscience.”

KSU alum and professor Stella Xu, who currently serves as manager for China global commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, was an intern in the governor’s office during Perdue’s tenure.  Xu said that soon after she met her new boss she realized he would open doors between the state and China. Perdue ended up leading the state’s first mission to China and opened the first Georgia office in China. Georgia now hosts more than 40 Chinese companies, she said.

“Governor Perdue created a new page in the history that linked Georgia and China,” Xu said.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit