Column: Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Hala Moddelmog makes staff moves

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 14, 2014

Less than three months since she’s been in her new role, Metro Atlanta Chamber President and CEO Hala Moddelmog is beginning to put her team in place.

A series of staff moves are being announced on Friday, March 14, that will help the business organization emphasize its efforts on strategic focus areas.

Moddelmog is promoting Katie Kirkpatrick, who has been leading the Business-Higher Ed Council, to the newly named position of senior vice president of policy, innovation and entrepreneurship. That will include the traditional public policy work that the Chamber has done in transportation, education and the environment. And it also will incorporate the work of the Business-Higher Ed Council.

“It is a little bit clearer about our mission to leverage the great talent that we have here,” Kirkpatrick said.

As part of the staff changes, the Chamber is promoting Chuck Meadows to vice president of public policy — a role that will oversee economic development policy, education policy and workforce development. He also will oversee the Atlanta Partners for Education. Kirkpatrick called his area of focus the “human capital” side of public policy.

Also Dave Williams, who has been serving as vice president of transportation, will be promoted and given additional duties — becoming the vice president of infrastructure and government affairs. In his new role, Williams will oversee water, transportation, the environment and government affairs.

“This allows us to be more aligned on having a public policy focus and a competitive business climate,” Kirkpatrick said. “We are not reducing our focus in any of the areas where we have been involved. We are still fully committed to the Business-Higher Ed Council. We just haven’t completed that picture yet. If anything, I anticipate that there will be additional resources.”

Kirkpatrick said she is returning to her roots in her new role. She joined the Chamber in 2007 to oversee its public policy work on water, air, energy and quality growth issues, and she managed the 2011 Sustainable Economic Growth Initiative.

“I have a background in public policy,” she said. “Pubic policy is in my veins, and I’m working with a great team of individuals.”

Moddelmog also promoted Tanya Dunne to vice president of communications, reporting to Bari Love, senior vice president of communications and marketing.

In addition to Kirkpatrick and Love, the Chamber’s senior leadership team now also includes Janice Rys, senior vice president of membership development and services; and Dan Corso, senior vice president of sports.

The Chamber also is conducting a national search for a chief economic development officer. That person will fill the vacancy made when Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic development, resigned in February after 15 years with the Chamber.

Search consultant Joe Goodwin, who was involved in identifying Moddelmog as a potential president and CEO, is assisting the Chamber in finding a new economic development chief.

17,000 turn out for Hunger Walk

It is a walk like no other. More than 17,000 people turned up at Turner Field on March 9 for the 30th anniversary of the annual Hunger Walk/Run — a record number of participants for the event that raises money and awareness for people who struggle with having enough food to eat.

No one was prouder than Bill Bolling, the founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, who launched the Hunger Walk 30 years ago.

“It’s just something to see — so many people and a group that is so diverse,” Bolling said. “It is such an affirmation of who we are as Atlantans. It is an expression of our common values and our commitment to help our neighbors in need. Our walks are unique because they are so diverse — by race, religion, suburban, urban. Where else do you see all these people coming together?”

The Hunger Walk also raised at least $675,000 (they are still accepting donations and still counting donations) — which also was a record. The funds will go to the Atlanta Community Food Bank and five other benefiting partners — Episcopal Charities Foundation, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Lutheran Services of Georgia, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and St. Vincent De Paul Society.

In the 30 years since the event began, Hunger Walk/Run has raised more than $7 million. Still, Georgia’s hunger and poverty numbers remain at critical levels. More than 28 percent of Georgia’s children live in food-insecure homes, and about 20 percent of Georgians are struggling with hunger.

Sochi Olympics in review

When Atlanta’s Charlie Battle was first asked to help Sochi, Russia, with its bid to win the 2014 Winter Olympics in 2005, even he thought to himself it might be a bit of a stretch.

Battle remembered taking an old Aeroflot plane to a place where there were no modern hotels that had few sports facilities. The place that was being proposed to build the Olympic venues was a “foreboding piece of property on the coast.”

And then he visited the mountains where the winter sports were going to be held, and he said it looked like the mountains of Appalachia during the Depression.

Battle recounted his experiences to the Rotary Club of Atlanta on March 10.

Despite the obvious challenges, Battle, who was instrumental in helping Atlanta win the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, signed on to help Sochi with the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“The setting and the views were terrific,” Battle said. “Certainly the potential was there. It needed a good story. It needed good people. And it needed good marketing.”

Obviously, hosting the Winter Olympics was an important quest for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wanted to have Russian athletes win more Olympic medals in the winter sports as well as create a new tourist destination in Sochi. It was a high-priced venture — going from an initial $15 billion budget to $50 billion, the most expensive Olympic Games in history.

Battle said that during the first 10 days, Putin was actually “on a charm offensive,” getting along with everyone. “He really was in good humor until the Russian hockey team was eliminated from the medal competition,” Battle said.

And then the conflict in the Ukraine seemed to counterbalance some of the gains that had been made in Sochi — putting a question mark on Sochi’s Olympic legacy.

As Battle said: “It’s a little difficult to put these games in perspective with all that’s happening in the world.”

Geri Thomas honored

Geri Thomas, chief diversity officer and Georgia state president for Bank of America, has received the 2014 “Fire Starter Award” by the National Council for Research on Women.

The National Council, which recently changed its name to Re:Gender, recognized individuals who have sparked lasting change for gender equality.

Thomas joined Bank of America in 1970 in the consumer banking area — progressing through a number of leadership roles. She became the global diversity and inclusion executive in 2002, and she was named the Georgia state president in 2009.

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