Volunteers Play a Big Role in Helping Students Succeed in Project for a Day

By Melanie Platt and Caitlin Sims

Recently more than 300 Atlanta business and community leaders visited various Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to participate in Project For A Day (PFAD), held on Nov. 6. Project For A Day is an annual event in which volunteers from the business, civic and nonprofit communities volunteer their time on a designated project, and make a tangible impact in the lives of students.

Professionals from multiple organizations spent the morning participating in hands-on, student-focused activities at APS schools. Afterward, the volunteers were among an audience of approximately 600, including APS principals, at the celebratory luncheon at the Omni Hotel to honor student and volunteer efforts.

Project For A Day is sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE), a 33-year-old joint venture between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Public Schools.

AGL Resources was one of the Atlanta-area businesses that participated in Project For A Day by volunteering at Parkside Elementary School. But AGL’s volunteerism goes beyond one day; AGL employees have been volunteering at Parkside for more than a decade.

Parkside Principal Caitlin Sims and AGL Resources Foundation President Melanie Platt share their perspectives on how this partnership benefits the students and volunteers.

Tell us about the school-business partnership between AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary.

Melanie Platt Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and President, AGL Resources Foundation

Melanie Platt
Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and
President, AGL Resources Foundation

At AGL Resources, we believe the path to social mobility and enhanced opportunities includes education and career readiness. Simply put, education is a gateway to everything good in life, so it is very important to us that we support students in their educational aspirations.

The AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary partnership is now in its 11th year, and over the course of that time, we’ve seen it strengthen, thanks in large part to the leadership at the school and the enthusiasm of our employees.  It is really a win-win relationship – we’re offering a rewarding volunteer experience to our employees while contributing to the growth and development of the students.

 Why do you think it’s important for your employees to volunteer in the schools?

One of our corporate shared values is Generosity of Spirit – we give back to the communities where we live and serve.  Our employees truly take this value to heart, donating tens of thousands of hours each year to communities across our footprint. Volunteer activities are as diverse as our workforce, and the volunteer experiences at Parkside are some of our most popular.  Whether creating enthusiasm for reading or promoting careers in energy during College and Career Week, our employee volunteers are a positive presence at Parkside and enhance the traditional classroom learning experience. By promoting a love of learning and showing the possibilities that come from a good education, I wholeheartedly believe we’re building a brighter future for individuals, families and communities.

What types of activities have you completed with the students at Parkside?

Over the course of the school year, our employee volunteers have several opportunities to get involved at Parkside. Whether they choose to join the annual PFAD events sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education, serve as judges for the Academic Science Fair, or lead Junior Achievement in a Day sessions, our volunteers are helping to prepare Parkside students for success in life. And of course, by participating in College and Career Week, we want to encourage students to consider higher education as a next step – maybe even a career in energy!

But our involvement extends beyond the classroom. During the holidays, we are honored to welcome Parkside students to our corporate headquarters where they treat our employees to rounds of spirited songs of the season, and we, in turn, treat them to goodwill and refreshments. And our employees demonstrate our Company’s value of Generosity of Spirit by supporting students and families in need through our annual Parkside Angel Tree.

AGL Volunteers at Project For A Day:

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Caitlin Sims Principal, Parkside Elementary School

Caitlin Sims
Principal, Parkside Elementary School

Q: Tell us about the partnership.

I am very proud of and grateful for the 11-year partnership between Parkside Elementary School and AGL Resources. The AGL team has done an extraordinary job of being a committed corporate partner to our school. The company brings in multiple volunteers throughout the year to talk to our students. We just hosted College and Career Week, which is a major initiative within the Atlanta Public Schools, to educate our students about different options for college and career pathways. AGL brought representatives from different departments – from meter readers and finance to HR and corporate executives – to talk about their careers.

 Q: What are some activities the AGL volunteers participate in at the school?

Reading is a big activity and very key for our students. During the Project For A Day event, the AGL volunteers came and read books to different classes.

During the recent College and Career Week, the AGL volunteers passed out drawstring knapsacks to all the kids so they could create their “bag of dreams” by drawing their visions for their career dreams on one side and college dreams on the other.

During the holidays, we take our choral students to the AGL offices and sing holiday carols. This is a nice treat for the employees and a great learning experience for the students, as they get to see a major company from the inside, visit different floors, and see the executive offices. It’s a great opportunity for exposure to the corporate world.

Each year before school starts, I meet with the core volunteer team in the summer and we map out our goals for the year and what we want to get out of the partnership. The team at AGL is very fluid and flexible; they ask what our needs are and how they can help. We develop an action plan together.

Over the years, the AGL volunteers have also contributed tin other ways, serving as judges for our science fair, providing mentoring and tutoring services and providing incentive prizes for students who reached attendance goals. They have been very involved throughout the 11-year partnership.

Q: What are the benefits you see in the students from this partnership and the involvement of AGL volunteers?

It makes such a big difference for the students to see and hear real people talking about their jobs and offer a very direct connection to the “real world.” The AGL volunteers always emphasize the importance of education in each of their visits, and show the students how they connect to a bigger community.

We talk about creating global citizens and graduates who are ready for the challenges of the 21st century – it’s thrilling for the students to have guest readers and guest speakers who can share some of their wisdom and insight. The College and Career Readiness piece is so critical, and it’s fantastic to have a partner that directly supports this is initiative.

The most important thing about the partnership is AGL’s genuine interest in keeping the partnership focused on the needs of the school and the students. That makes it rewarding on both sides. They really care about what will help the students succeed. I am grateful that AGL Resources gives its employees the time to volunteer at Parkside. The students always light up when they see the volunteers at school, reading to them in their classes or talking about their careers. Their involvement has been invaluable.

APFE has been serving the students of APS since 1981 by providing opportunities for the Atlanta business community to become involved in public education to gain a deeper understanding of how they can make a positive difference in students’ lives. The partnership also allows schools to hear from businesses about the job skills needed in the future workforce. For more information, visit http://www.atlantapartnersforeducation.org/

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Interns are Vital to Atlanta’s Wireless Mobility Sector

By Jonathan LeCompte, president – Georgia/Alabama Region, Verizon Wireless

By Jonathan LeCompte, president – Georgia/Alabama Region, Verizon Wireless

Atlanta’s growing wireless mobility sector has become a hub for industry innovation and growth. To keep driving that momentum we are tapping into an important resource for talent: interns.

Employers like Verizon seek value in an intern’s fresh perspective and the vital skill set these technology natives possess. Internships have been a vital recruitment method for many companies in the mobility sphere. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, approximately 77 percent of companies primarily use internship programs to recruit entry-level talent. In today’s job market, internships have evolved into an extended interview process that evaluates an individual’s work ethic, skill level and cultural fit before incurring the expense of a full-time hire.

It makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Approximately 50 percent of internships and co-ops will convert to full-time hires, which is great for sourcing talent. Of those interns that converted to full-time hires, 57 percent are still with the company after five years, which translates into a low turn-over rate.

In an effort to satisfy the demand for new talent in Atlanta’s growing mobile technology industry, Verizon Wireless partnered with our city’s biggest mobility event, Mobility LIVE!, in 2013 to host an intern summit where mobility companies connected with students from Metro Atlanta’s universities. Companies ranged from the big players to new startups and included Verizon, AT&T, The Weather Channel, Star Mobile, Catavolt, WNA and more.  The intern summit was so successful that we did it again in 2014, drawing a 60 percent increase in student attendance.

At this year’s event, Verizon Wireless’ own Morgan Henry shared insights gained as an intern with our company for three summers during her time at Howard University. Her experience was more than a stepping stone – it was a catapult into a challenging and rewarding career. Morgan has now been with Verizon for four years, and has held several different positions within our marketing organization, gaining invaluable experience along the way.

Why are events like this one vital for all parties involved? Connecting with students while they are still in school allows employers to hone in on talents and aid in connecting class lessons to the real world. By showing a student where native-technological skills and business collide, we are generating awareness about opportunities in mobile technology he or she may have not been exposed to previously. Additionally, not only are internships mutually beneficial for both the intern and the employer, but also for Metro Atlanta. By embracing young talent, we are creating a better quality talent pool for the entire region. If we keep that talent in Metro Atlanta, we can help make Atlanta the global leader in mobile innovation.

I invite you to join companies like Verizon Wireless, The Coca-Cola Company, How Stuff Works, BlueFletch, The Home Depot and more who are foraging Metro Atlanta’s universities looking for the expertise that will revolutionize the next era of mobility.

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For Job Growth, A Thriving Startup Community is Essential

By Blake Patton Managing Partner, Tech Square Ventures

By Blake Patton,
Managing Partner, Tech Square Ventures

Entrepreneurs building technology startups need more than an idea and a great team. Unless you have deep pockets or wealthy relatives, chances are you will require outside investment to turn your passion into a high-growth success.

That’s where venture capital comes in. VC firms are professional managers of risk capital that fund new innovations by investing in promising early-stage companies. These companies aren’t at the stage where it’s possible to secure traditional bank loans or raise money in the public markets.

Compared to other technology hotbeds like California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas, access to capital is a critical challenge for Georgia’s tech entrepreneurs.  The state’s share of national venture capital investments in 2013 was only one percent, while the entire Southeast saw just three percent of those dollars. Georgia also trails Virginia and North Carolina in seed and early stage investments.

The lack of capital is not just a problem for entrepreneurs. It affects all Georgians because when it comes to job growth, startups are everything. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation highlighted the fact that since 1977, most net new jobs in the United States are created by startups. Improving access to capital is critical for keeping our best and brightest entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find the financing they need.

The funding shortage in Georgia is a big opportunity for early-stage venture capital and angel investors. The current level of investment in the state does not match the level of entrepreneurial activity and innovation coming out of our startups and research universities. For local investors, finding deal flow is easier and less competitive here than in other parts of the country.  This is why I started Tech Square Ventures, a seed and early-stage fund investing in technology startups. We’re putting our money to work right here in Atlanta and across the Southeast.

Investors outside the region are beginning to take notice, as well. Atlanta startups Ionic Security and Pindrop Security both recently raised money from iconic Silicon Valley venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

And last week, Atlanta tech startup hopefuls got their chance.

On Oct. 21-22, a full house of local entrepreneurs gathered at the Georgia Aquarium to “swim with the sharks” at Venture Atlanta, the premier technology conference in the Southeast that connects entrepreneurs with the capital they need to grow their business.  At the event, 33 local and regional startups presented to more than 125 investors from across the country in hopes of attracting the funding they need to propel them to success.

Atlanta has all the key ingredients for a thriving technology startup ecosystem: talented innovators, world-class research universities and a history of startup success. We have a strong base of FORTUNE 1000 companies here, which makes it a great place for entrepreneurs to find early customers and connect with industry executives for networking and mentoring. But, it also takes capital to fuel that ecosystem, and Venture Atlanta is doing its part.

When local startups succeed, we all win.

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Calling All Former Boys & Girls Club Kids & Alumni – Share Stories through New Mobile Apps

Charles Holt

Charles Holt

By Vernon Rose, National Director of Affinity Markets, Boys & Girls Club of America

Meet Charles Holt. Actor. Story-teller. Producer. Author. And former Boys & Girls Club kid. In fact, he’s one of 16 million former Club kids. And we need to reach every one of these alumni in order to build a great future for today’s kids. Every Club alum has a unique story to encourage children today. The challenge for Boys & Girls Clubs? This potential army of former Club kids is nearly invisible.

In the spring of 2014, Charles stepped up for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and offered to help Club kids.  This generous offer stemmed from his childhood experiences as a Club kid in Nashville, Tenn. Charles will soon visit Club kids across America, utilizing his unique storytelling and life experiences to share his story of how he unlocked his own inner voice and found his life’s purpose.

Through the creation of new apps developed by the teams of the Mobility LIVE! Hack-Back Invitational, BGCA hopes to soon have the unique opportunity to capture the attention, volunteerism and stories of millions of former Club kids like Charles.

The Mobility Live Hack-Back Invitational is a unique event created by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), whereby teams of hackers were invited to develop mobility solutions for national based nonprofits in a monthlong competition for cash and prizes. The 2014 program was held in conjunction with the 2014 Mobility LIVE! Conference in Atlanta in partnership with the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Teams of programmers, developers and coders were invited to compete in the event while helping to give (hack) back to three of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations – including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is based in Atlanta.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America logoAs BGCA Club alumni range from age 18 to 80-plus, we are continuously challenged to seek affordable outlets to maintain visibility. The Hack-Back Invitational helped us with a solution to create access that our alumni and parents have never enjoyed before.

As part of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Great Futures Campaign, engaging the 16 million alumni is a cornerstone of our efforts to build a great future for today’s kids. Many face challenges not known in earlier generations.

 

  • The American dream is likely unattainable for the majority of kids today. Our nation’s state of poor academic performance, obesity, drug use and youth-related violence are cause for alarm and national action.
  • Every day, 15 million kids leave school unsupervised, with no place to go. That’s more than a quarter of America’s kids left unguided and potentially unsafe after school.
  • In the summer, some 43 million (3 out of 4) kids lack access to summer learning programs, increasing their risk of significant learning loss and falling off track to graduate from high school.

Our vision is ambitious: to assure success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all Club members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. We are excited about the launch of this new app to support our vision by engaging Club alumni to share their stories and to inspire parents with the living proof of alumni like Charles Holt.

“I challenge my fellow Club kids to join me in supporting the futures of Club kids today,” says Charles in issuing his call to action. “Igniting our energy, effort and care for the benefit of these children will be transformational, both for us and for kids!”

To learn more about the Great Futures campaign, visit www.greatfutures.org

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Inaugural year of Cleantech Open Programming Raises Profile for Atlanta’s Clean Tech Strengths

by Matthew Patterson, Director of Supply Chain & Advanced Manufacturing, Metro Atlanta Chamber

by Matthew Patterson, Director of Supply Chain & Advanced Manufacturing, Metro Atlanta Chamber

We’re known as “the city built in a forest,” and our clean tech economy is reminiscent of that nickname.

Clean tech is a broad industry that includes numerous sectors.  Metro Atlanta is especially strong in the cleantech sectors of energy efficiency –  recycling and solid waste, smart grid, clean technology services, and recycled products/materials. Metro Atlanta is a leader in the clean tech industry among U.S. metro areas, with more than 30,000 people working in a variety of clean tech and sustainability jobs, according to The Brookings Institution’s Sizing the Clean Economy study released July 2011. The study found that Atlanta – the seventh largest metro clean economy in the country – is well positioned to be a major hub in a variety of clean activities, and is the most diverse metropolitan area clean economy in the nation.

Cleantech Open, a not-for-profit organization based in Pala Alto, California, runs the world’s largest accelerator for clean tech startups. Its mission is to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges.

Cleantech Open has several regional branches, including one in the southeastern United States.

Referred to as Cleantech Open Southeast, the program seeks to feed and boost the existing startup ecosystem within the region and is one of the largest hubs in the Cleantech Open. CTO Southeast accepts applicants between January and May of each program year and a preliminary judging round determines the Semi-Finalist Team who will participate in the national Cleantech Open accelerator program. Semi-Finalist companies have an opportunity to compete for regional prizes upwards of $20k and national prizes upwards of $200k.

In 2014, CTO Southeast expanded its regional presence in Atlanta and approached the Metro Atlanta Chamber about partnering on a few events to raise visibility for the program among fast-growing clean tech companies and startups. Cleantech Open Southeast has already hosted two events in Atlanta with The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Cleantech Leadership Council and Thompson & Hine LLC.

This week, Cleantech Open and GE Digital Energy will host its Mock Judging Event in preparation of the Southeast Regional Innovation Summit on Oct. 22-23 in Alexandria, Va. Sponsored by the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Clean Tech Leadership Council, GE Digital Energy and Thompson Hine, LLC, the Mock Judging event in Atlanta will bring several clean tech companies from around the southeast to Atlanta.  The companies, who are semifinalists in the 2014 national Cleantech Open Accellerator contest, will present business models and products before a select group of C-level executives representing large corporate firms in Atlanta.  This will give the startups the opportunity to fine-tune presentation and business skills prior to the summit.

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Mobility LIVE! coming September 23-24!

Atlanta’s mobility ecosystem is flourishing with vast growth opportunities in the digital product and service space. For two days, Mobility LIVE! will bring together key thought leaders and decision makers in the areas of mobile technology standards, strategies and innovations. Join Mobility LIVE! to tap into the mobile industry and learn how to leverage the power of mobility through interactive programs. This year, Mobility LIVE! we bill co-located with GSMA Mobile 360 – North America. Atlanta will host GSMA Mobile 360’s first-ever event in North America, reinforcing Atlanta’s stance as a hub for mobility. Watch this video to learn more about the innovation happening in our city.  To register for Mobility LIVE!, please visit here.

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Why Exports should be in your daily vocabulary

by Ric Hubler, senior director, global business growth, Metro Atlanta Chamber

by Ric Hubler, senior director, global business growth, Metro Atlanta Chamber

There is no question that Atlanta ranks among America’s leading metropolitan areas: Metro Atlanta has the 3rd largest concentration of FORTUNE 500 headquarters; it is the 9th largest population center; it is the 10th largest economy by gross metro product (GMP); and it is 13th when it comes to exports. For good reason Atlanta has emerged as the economic heart of the Southeast and a gateway for companies going global.  When you consider our competitive assets – our airport, our universities, our diverse population, and our highways and railroads – it is easy to see why companies choose to do business in Atlanta.

Whether you are moving people, products, or information, Atlanta has become the place to do it. We enjoy direct access to 150 domestic destinations and more than 60 international destinations from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  We have incredible connections with Savannah, the nation’s 4th largest container port. And as a testament to the wired nature of our city, 3 out of every 4 electronic payments in the U.S. are processed in Atlanta.  Our companies have all the resources to be truly international.  However, despite all the rankings and competitive assets, Atlanta is under exporting.  The reality is we rank 75th out of the Top 100 when it comes to export intensity (9.5 percent) – exports as a percentage of our economy – putting us below the national average (13.2 percent).  But why should we worry about export intensity? We exported $25.5B in goods and services in 2012, and #13 in the nation isn’t bad.

The truth is we should care about export intensity; it isn’t just another economic statistic on a page.  In today’s global economy, it tells a compelling story about Atlanta.  With 83% of global economic growth projected to occur outside the U.S. by 2018, 95 percent of the world’s consumers already located outside the U.S., and global middle class consumption projected to reach $35 trillion – with a “T” – by 2020, the opportunities for growth are increasingly outside the U.S.  So what does our export intensity tell us? Unfortunately, it indicates that our industries in metro Atlanta are not taking advantage of global opportunities.

Exports are critical to the strength and growth of our local economy.  By selling competitive products and services to meet growing global demand, our companies find opportunities to grow their business and benefit our local economy with more revenue and job growth. And more Atlanta companies are capable of exporting than you may realize.  While most people think of exports as only manufactured goods, much of Atlanta’s exports come from services in sectors, such as architecture & design, consulting, engineering, franchising, legal & accounting, software, and travel & tourism.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that each $1B in exports supports 5,590 American jobs.  Plus, exporters tend to pay 10 – 20 percent higher wages than their domestic-focused counterparts.  Furthermore, exporting companies help to connect Atlanta with the world, making us a more globally engaged and economically robust region. With reasons like these, we all should want more of our local companies to export more.

Still, less than 5% of U.S. firms actually export, and almost 60% of those firms sell to only one foreign market.  So what keeps companies from exporting?

Numerous surveys have shown that many U.S. companies simply view exporting as too difficult, scary, or risky.  When you have a domestic market of 300 million consumers, a solid legal system, world-class logistics infrastructure, and a stable financial system, most executives, particularly from small and medium businesses, would ask why they should venture outside the U.S. and take on the risk of exporting.  It is a valid question, and it is one we hear more and more each day.

The good thing is I can point to Atlanta companies rising to the challenge every day. For instance, in the architecture & design sector, where the domestic market collapsed after 2008, we’ve seen local firms such as tvsdesign and GreenbergFarrow pursue and land deals in China and other markets after participating in trade missions with mayors and MAC.  These firms show that exporting is manageable, and the risks can be mitigated.  In addition, their stories demonstrate how diversifying their business through exports helps to make their companies stronger.

I recently traveled with our Global Commerce team to D.C. to receive the President’s “E” Award for Export Service from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.  MAC was one of 66 organizations to receive the award this year, along with local partners Global Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.  The mood was optimistic, and everyone appreciated our efforts to promote exports and engage more companies in the process.  One cornerstone of why we received the award was our work with our regional partners on the Atlanta Metro Export Plan (MEP). The MEP is a truly metro initiative to engage more companies to get into exporting.  One MEP focus is to establish an export culture and an export ecosystem in Atlanta that will make it easier and more common, especially for small and medium companies, to: 1) begin exporting, and/or 2) increase existing exports. After all, when our companies increase exports, we all win.

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And the winner is……

by Mike Russell, president, ETS Solutions

by Mike Russell, president, ETS Solutions

Want to know who the Business Person of the Year is? Then read on.

The 2014 Business Person of the Year awards luncheon was a smashing success. Attended by more than 400 people at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, the event, co-hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, highlighted the entrepreneurial and innovative efforts of 12 businesses in metro Atlanta. The companies span virtually all industries – from mobile phone applications and building/construction materials to restaurants and lip balm.

I had the honor of being one of the presenters during the event, and the energy in the room and enthusiasm from the crowd was amazing. People like to see great things happen to great people, cheer their friends on and be inspired by hardworking people with big dreams and bright ideas.

The Business Person of the Year awards recognize a winner in each of three categories: early-stage entrepreneur (one to three years in business); emerging entrepreneur (three to seven years in business) and experienced entrepreneur (seven or more years in business).

MAC received more than 100 applications and narrowed the competition down to 12 finalists. We look at a variety of factors when judging the applicants, as my colleagues discussed in previous columns. Ultimately, we felt this year’s winners reflected the drive, innovation, growth and success to earn the title, “Business Person of the Year.”

The winners by category are:

Did you miss all the action? Watch the BPOTY finalists, in their own words:

Business Person of the Year 2014 – Meet the Finalists

Business Person of the Year 2014 – Behind the Scenes

And don’t forget to check out the slideshow from the event!

In 2013, MAC introduced a fourth category, Startups to Watch, a unique group of entrepreneurs that have flourished out of our local universities. These companies are in their early stages of business and are less than a year old. These organizations are producing unique and innovative ideas that will help drive metro Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecoystem. This year we recognized five “Startups to Watch”:

  • Abby Med, LLC – Stephen Snowdy, CEO; Emory University
  • SafiChoo – Jasmine Burton, CEO; Georgia Tech

Congratulations to all the winners!

Mike Russell is chair of MAC’s Business Growth Advisory Board, and a member of the Business Person of the Year judging committee.

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Join a Celebration of Metro Atlanta Businesses

by Nancy Whatley, vice president of entrepreneurial development, Metro Atlanta Chamber

by Nancy Whatley, vice president of entrepreneurial development, Metro Atlanta Chamber

What do Debbi Shapiro, Founder and President of Henderson Shapiro Peck, Andy Ibbotson, Founder & CEO of Digital Assent and Jean Albert Mori, CEO of Mori Luggage & Gifts, Inc. all have in common? They were all crowned one of Atlanta’s top titles, Business Person of the Year (BPOTY).

The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s (MAC) 28th Annual BPOTY awards are underway. The candidates have pitched their value propositions to seasoned judges and the judges have selected the winners. Now it’s time to come together to celebrate the great business and entrepreneurship transpiring in our region.

As a 2014 BPOTY judge and VP of Entrepreneurial Development at MAC, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from many of Atlanta’s esteemed small business owners. Selecting the winners was not an easy feat, but that is what makes our region unique. Atlanta is a breeding ground for some of the top thought leaders, intellects and innovators who are driving Atlanta’s position as a global city.

In addition, BPOTY accumulates a true representation of MAC membership. The awards ceremony isn’t limited to one industry or segment of business. It attracts members from all of Atlanta’s key industry clusters, including health IT and bioscience, supply chain and logistics, global commerce, mobility and technology, as well as business to consumer brands. Members of MAC’s Board of Advisors, Board of Directors, Ambassador team and small businesses also show up to give their support to these hard-working entrepreneurs.

BPOTY really celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of metro Atlanta. Many of Atlanta’s best-known brands began as startups: Coca-Cola, Spanx, The Home Depot and more. Did you know that Atlanta was ranked the #1 city to start a business by NerdWallet? Atlanta has consistently been ranked among the top five cities for entrepreneurial activity by prestigious organizations such as Forbes, Kauffman Foundation, Kiplinger and more. We have a long legacy of innovative thinkers who put their thoughts into action and create successful companies. I hope you will come meet some of them at our annual awards luncheon and hear first-hand what it takes to start and grow a successful company.

BPOTY also recognizes the roots of entrepreneurship – our metro universities. Last year, we added a new category to the program, Startups to Watch. This is a unique group of entrepreneurs that have flourished out of our local universities. These companies are in their early stages of business and are less than a year old. They are producing unique and innovative ideas that will further help Atlanta’s economy prosper. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, we hope they return in the near future as BPOTY winners once their businesses catapult.

I encourage you to attend the awards ceremony on June 6 to meet several of these talents and learn about Atlanta’s thriving business community and discover the products coming out of our university systems. After all, there ain’t no party like a BPOTY!

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What Winning the Business Person of the Year Award has Meant to Me

by Mark Gilreath, founder & CEO of EndoChoice, and winner of the 2013 Business Person of the Year Award – Emerging Entrepreneur Category

By Mark Gilreath, founder & CEO of EndoChoice, and winner of the 2013 Business Person of the Year Award – Emerging Entrepreneur Category

Last year I had the tremendous honor of being named winner of the 2013 Business Person of the Year (BPOTY) Award – Emerging Entrepreneur Category at the annual awards luncheon in June. I remember standing there on stage with my fellow finalists, and I was humbled when I heard my name called as the winner.

It is a real badge of honor to win the BPOTY award. It has become highly recognized and appreciated in the business community, and with great brand recognition, especially among the entrepreneurial community. It accelerates emerging entrepreneurs onto the national radar screen.

Because of the prestige of the award and the press around the BPOTY event, I’ve had some unique opportunities come my way. For example, I have been asked be to join high-level boards such as the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Board of Directors – which provides the opportunity to work side-by-side with Atlanta’s top CEOs and the heads of the area’s FORTUNE 500 companies.  I represent an “entrepreneurial voice” on the board and provide perspective on two key areas for metro Atlanta’s economy: high-growth startups and the healthcare industry.

I was also asked to join the advisory board of Duke University’s Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE). This is quite an honor, both as an alumnus of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and also to be among an esteemed group of international business leaders representing some of America’s top consumer brands and sports professionals. Additionally, this year I was also invited to join the board of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA), which is a leading voice for the medical device industry in Washington, DC.

Although the award is titled “Business Person of the Year,” the award truly is shared with an entire team of people.  Nobody builds a great company alone, and EndoChoice is no exception.  I am simply fortunate to be part of a highly engaged EndoChoice team with more than 425 inspired individuals.

EndoChoice has been a labor of love since we began in 2008 in my basement with a singular vision to create a medical technology company focused on serving the GI caregiver.  Our team rapidly developed a proprietary product portfolio, which includes the revolutionary Full Spectrum Endoscopy™ System (also called Fuse™).  The Fuse System is comprised of video colonoscopes and gastroscopes with multiple imagers so doctors can see more of the GI tract for diagnosis and treatment.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and it is curable if the polyps are identified and removed early.  The Fuse colonoscope provides a field of view of 330 degrees versus 170 degrees from traditional colonoscopes, and the difference can be life changing.  In a recent clinical study, Fuse found a remarkable 69 percent more pre-cancerous polyps than traditional colonoscopes.  As a result, patients across America are insisting on Fuse technology for their next colonoscopy.  EndoChoice has more information on Fuse available at FuseColonoscopy.org.

Cancer touches everyone, and people are very motivated in the fight against cancer.  So, you can imagine that our team at EndoChoice is very passionate about the work that they do each day.  It’s been inspiring to see our employees share their own personal stories, how cancer has affected their families, and they use those stories to motivate the team and strengthen our company’s mission – We serve the GI caregiver, so they can better serve their patients.  It’s highly rewarding to know that our products are saving people’s lives.

Building a successful company begins with hiring great people, and we’re fortunate to live in a community loaded with world-class talent.  With such a thriving business environment and leading universities in this area – including the major research universities such as Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia – we are lucky to be able to recruit fantastic team members. And if we ever need to recruit unique individuals outside of the area, many factors make metro Atlanta an wonderful place to attract talent – The quality of life, the climate, a hub for technology and healthcare, advanced R&D, off-the-charts customer service, and global access from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  These factors all contribute to a superb environment for growing an emerging company into a global market leader.

I still keep in touch with my fellow BPOTY finalists and enjoy talking with other entrepreneurs about growing their business. I encourage others to apply and go through the process; it’s another great step in our journey of continual improvement. I look forward to celebrating the next round of BPOTY winners on June 6 and helping support metro Atlanta’s entrepreneurial community.

EndoChoice is a medical technology company focused on the manufacturing and commercialization of platform technologies including devices, diagnostics, infection control and endoscopic imaging for specialists treating a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. The company has more than 2,000 customers in the United States and has annual revenue of more than $50 million. Inc. Magazine has recognized EndoChoice as one of the fastest growing companies in America for the last four consecutive years. Sequoia Capital is the Company’s lead investor.

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