ATHENS, Ga. - When the Terry College of Business dean arrived at the University of Georgia, he saw opportunity.
"What I saw ... is a beautiful college town with a lovely campus sitting on the edge of this (Atlanta) metro area, ... the economic engine of the Southeast," said George Benson, who took over as dean of the Terry College in 1998.
"We need to weave ourselves into the fabric of the Atlanta business community," Mr. Benson recalled thinking. "I saw that as the first big challenge."
On Tuesday, the Terry College of Business will hold a grand opening celebration for the Atlanta Executive Education Center - a 25,000-square-foot facility in Atlanta's tony Buckhead section that officials say will boost the Terry College's prominence. It's all part of Mr. Benson's plan to cultivate a relationship between the college and businesses in Atlanta.
The most important reason to have a facility near downtown Atlanta, Mr. Benson said, is to have a space that allows business people, faculty and students to learn from one another.
"The modern business school needs to be a part of the business community, not viewed as separate and distinct from it," he said. "If we stand alone in Athens, without those connections, we can very quickly become irrelevant."
The Atlanta Executive Education Center isn't Terry College's first inroads into Atlanta.
In 2001, the business school started an executive master's of business administration program at UGA's Atlanta Alumni Center.
But as the program grew, Terry College officials realized they needed a larger space.
The Atlanta Executive Education Center, located in a leased building situated across the street from Lenox Square mall, comes with a price tag of roughly $500,000 per year. But the programs in the Atlanta center make more than enough money to cover the costs, said Charlie Squires, the director of Terry College executive programs.
And the prominent location - and the lighted "UGA Terry College of Business" sign - have amped up interest in the business school and its executive MBA program.
Requests for applications and attendance at information sessions for the executive MBA program are up 40 percent to 50 percent from last year, said Rich Daniels, the director of the MBA program.
A number of corporate contacts have mentioned they've seen the building, said David Waters, a co-director of the college's MBA Career Resource Center. "That's a huge step for us, building that awareness."
For alumni, the location means opportunities to interact with UGA, said Jay O'Meara, who earned his undergraduate and MBA degrees at UGA and now works for CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real-estate firm.
"We all love going back to Athens," Mr. O'Meara said, but it isn't always practical. "It's just a lot easier for business people to have an event in Buckhead than drive to Athens."