Tom Robertson

Dean, Goizueta Business School at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

A relative newcomer to the South, Goizueta Business School Dean Tom Robertson transferred his talents last year from London Business School to Emory University. A former deputy principal at LBS, Robertson boasts a rich resume in academia and business. Prior to his tenure at LBS, the strategic marketing specialist helped construct the Wharton School’s executive education program and advised companies including AT&T, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Rolls Royce, and Roche Laboratorie.


An e-commerce champion, Robertson hopes to produce Goizueta graduates well-versed in the technological and entrepreneurial language of the New Economy. In the South, he has found, that requires a working knowledge of established corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, as well as newcomer startups like eTour and iXL.

The Energy Asset
The thing that surprised me most about Atlanta was its vibrancy and optimism. I came here from the London School of Business. During my five years there, I never witnessed a comparable “can do” attitude. I think that’s why Atlanta was able to snag the Olympics and get the upcoming Super Bowl. When I meet business leaders around the city, almost everyone tells that things will just keep getting better and better. They champion new ideas and venture capital, and are always trying to attract new industries. Atlanta is an incredibly ambitious city that aims to be a leading global metropolis in the next century. I don’t see why that won’t happen.

Atlanta as Leader
In many ways, the “New South” is personified by Atlanta, which is an optimistic, vibrant, high-growth city with a very high employment rate and a surplus of incoming companies. Of course, the South claims a number of established world-class companies like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, and BellSouth. Truly creating a lot of noise today, however, are all the new startup companies such as Web MD, eTour, iXL, MacQuarium, and a new company headed up by several Goizueta alumni called

As a result, those established companies are now moving in high-tech directions. For example, here in Atlanta we have UPS, which is a dominant player in e-commerce because it literally delivers the merchandise. Atlanta is also home to CNN, a network that has moved into Internet sites and really expanded its portfolio.

Finally, the New South is experiencing major growth at the hands of worldwide companies that are establishing their corporate U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. Today, as companies begin to go global, they want to locate their headquarters in an American city with high growth, a certain vibrancy, and a straight route to Europe. The new AT&T/British Telecom joint venture is going to be based in Atlanta, along with Scandinavia’s Tetrapack, and Sweden’s Saab.

Timeline Points Toward Technology and Services
Over time, agriculture and textiles have become less important in the South. They’ve been replaced by financial services, retail services, and various other business-to-business services. Technology offers another obvious area for expansion, not only in terms of hardware, but also in the software that accompanies it. The South is not attempting to maintain a major manufacturing center like some other industrial areas, so it has been very aggressive in moving into new areas.


For example, Charlotte is emerging as not only a major regional banking center, but as a national financial hub for Nation’s Bank, Bank of America, Wachovia and First Union. In addition, financially speaking, Miami is really the headquarters of Latin America. That may sound arrogant and U.S.-centric, but an awful lot of major American corporations have their Latin American headquarters in Miami, and several major Latin American companies have a major presence in Miami. Now, Atlanta is challenging Miami for that title. Atlanta is poised to become a major gateway to Latin America, partially because Atlanta lays claim to Delta Airlines, which now offers nearly 70 non-stops a day to that region.

Back to School
Atlanta moved from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, which requires an infrastructure for creating intellectual capital. In other words, you must have major universities, major business schools, and major engineering schools to foster and build this intellectual capital, in essense, the leaders of the future.

However, the secondary school system remains a major obstacle for the South. Though education problems plague the United States as a whole, they are especially urgent in the South, which strives to build a well-educated class of managers and professionals, and a well-educated class of people engaged in other economic functions.

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