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

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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

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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Are You the Next Business Person of the Year?

Lisa Dugan, Chair, Vistage International, Inc. – Atlanta

By Lisa Dugan, Chair, Vistage International, Inc. – Atlanta

You’ve been nominated for the Metro Atlanta Chamber Business Person of the Year (BPOTY). Now what? There are many questions you’re probably asking yourself, but these are the two questions you should be asking yourself—Is my company ready to compete and what would it take to win?

Technically, if you are a growing, small to mid-sized business owner, you are ready to compete for BPOTY. Better yet, if you can answer the following questions with relative ease, you are ready to compete.

  • Do I have a clearly articulated vision, mission, values and strategic plan?

While this seems like the oldest criteria in the book, it’s amazing how many companies still don’t have them. Or, they wrote them five years ago but they can’t repeat them, let alone live them.  Done well, these foundational pieces help create and reinforce a company culture that attracts top talent and serve as a rallying force, a company’s true north.

  • Do I have a solid, scalable business model?

Entrepreneurs are often guilty of trying to turn an art, or a single product or an idea into a business, only to find they can’t grow. Sometimes businesses are started without considering the cost and sustainability of growth. Is your model designed for exponential growth?

  • Can I claim and verify that my company has the competitive advantage in our market?

The judges review multiple applications from every industry. If we are reading 100+ applications and eight of them are digital marketing firms, six are IT companies, five are in the healthcare industry and so on, it’s critical that you are able to communicate what makes you different, what makes you the best and what makes people want to buy your product or service.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road. The judges are not looking for just any business to win the BPOTY title. The finalists that will stand on the stage on Friday, June 6, and at the awards luncheon represent the best of the best of Atlanta. You might be in a business that’s been around for 100 years, but if you are doing it perfectly, or if you are doing something innovative or have an innovation, we want to know about it. Metro Atlanta needs to know about it.

Here’s the good news, MAC has coaches to help you win, not just the BPOTY award, but the real game of business. Nancy Whatley, vice president of entrepreneurial development at MAC, has spent the last three years creating resources to help entrepreneurial companies grow. The skills you gain in learning to talk about and sell your business in a way that people want to know more is worth the exercise alone. What you gain in visibility and bragging rights helps put you on the map. That visibility helps the 10 judges, and the larger community, connect you to people you want to do business with — and that is priceless. At the end of the day, it’s not just about the BPOTY. It’s about you and your company thriving, long term and we are here to help you do that.

Lisa Dugan is a member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Business Person of the Year judging committee.

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BPOTY offers substantial experience to contestants

By Jim Beach, founder of School for Startups and SBA Award-winning radio host

By Jim Beach, founder of School for Startups and SBA Award-winning radio host

As you read this, the Business Person of the Year (BPOTY) competition team at the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) is hard at work preparing to select metro Atlanta’s winning entrepreneurs.  Business owners around the metro area have written applications, submitted them and should now be practicing their elevator pitches. The 10 judges are reading nearly 100 applications, evaluating the businesses and getting ready to grill the owners

“BPOTY” – as Nancy Whatley, vice president of entrepreneurship for MAC, ingeniously named the competition — is designed to recognize the best in the region. The best new businesses, the best emerging leaders, and the best established companies are selected because of their demonstrated success. Past winners are the leaders in their fields and are the reason Atlanta remains a dominant entrepreneurial force. From retail to bionics, from farm-raised foods to software, the companies of metro Atlanta are diverse, dynamic and driving the growth of the South.

Winning the award has great benefits for a company and an entrepreneur. The recognition of your home city sets you apart in your industry at a national level. Winners do, and should, brag on their websites and in press releases. Marketing gurus preach the importance of educating your customers about your business. A photo winning a MAC BPOTY award is a great way to remind your customers how good you are. There is no reason to run an ad when MAC is bragging about you.

One of the best reasons to join any chamber is to meet other business leaders. The BPOTY award process brings leaders together from different industries and regions. People that have never met are introduced on a new playing field. Connections that otherwise would never have happen occur in the waiting room before the pitch portion of the contest or at the award luncheon itself.

The application process is also valuable for the business itself. Competition is good for business. Having your peers judge you and your pitch is good for you and your business. The process itself forces owners to sit, think and write a paragraph on their value, their mores, their practices and their dreams. Owners then must perfect and practice their three minute pitch. Years of building an amazing business can be lost and obscured in a three minute rambling pitch that tells the judges that you are “world class” but fails to tell them what industry you are in. Better pitches equal more sales and easier fundraising.

The judges would love to reward every company. But this is not 6 year old soccer, it is the big leagues. Not every owner will win, but participating will make every owner better and more visible in the metro area. MAC’s Business Person of the Year award is a huge honor, a fantastic process for the participants and the winners are worthy of the highest accolades.

Join us on June 6 to see who will take home the awards for Business Person of the Year.

Jim Beach is a member of the judging panel for the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Business Person of the Year competition.

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Atlanta Science Festival is an opportunity for all to celebrate science

David Hartnett photo 2 - 125 x 200

by David Hartnett, vice president for bioscience and health IT at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and chair of the 2014 Atlanta Science Festival

Atlanta has long been a desired location for hosting and implementing extraordinary events that leverage all the great assets in our region, whether it’s the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, international trade shows and conferences, concerts, multiple sporting events, and many, many more.  Atlanta is also hotbed for health IT activity, and is known as the “Nation’s Health IT Capital.” The metro Atlanta region is also very strong in bioscience and engineering, and has hosted scores of industry conferences in the last several years, notably the BIO conference in 2009 that drew more than 14,300 attendees, and the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in 2010, that drew a record-breaking crowd of more than 30,000 attendees.

While Atlanta may be known for its world-class hospitality, attractions, sporting events and shows, it is also perhaps lesser known as something else – a center for STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Consider these facts:

  • Home to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Atlanta is a global center for public health.
  • Leading nonprofit organizations, including American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, The Carter Center, Task Force for Global Health and CARE all have headquarters in metro Atlanta.
  • Atlanta is the #3 metro for the number of engineering and engineering technologies bachelors’ degrees awarded.
  • Atlanta is the #7 metro for total math and statistics degrees awarded (bachelor’s or higher)
  • Atlanta is the #7 metro for total biological and biomedical sciences degrees awarded (bachelor’s or higher)
  • Atlanta ranks third in the nation among cities with the most FORTUNE 500 Headquarters, according to the 2013 FORTUNE list, and has 14 FORTUNE 500 firms headquartered in metro Atlanta
  • Georgia’s health IT sector employs more than 30,000 people.
  • Georgia’s bioscience industry supports more than 94,000 jobs and delivers an annual economic impact of $20 billion.
  • More than 1,600 bioscience companies have operations in Georgia.

While metro Atlanta has many strengths in the sciences, many people here in the region may not think of it that way. A new event hopes to change that.

In March, Atlanta will once again play center stage to an inaugural, extraordinary event – the Atlanta Science Festival – a weeklong celebration of local science and technology in the region through hands-on activities, facility tours, presentations and performances.

The Atlanta Science Festival (ASF) is an ambitious, groundbreaking touch-and-feel experience that involves more than 100 events across 30 venues with an expected attendance of more than 20,000 participants throughout the week. ASF attendees can participate in interactive workshops about topics like the solar system and robotics, enjoy live concerts, art exhibits, museum tours, a high school robotics showcase, and lectures explaining the science behind everyday phenomena such as sleep, music and love. In addition to lectures and workshops, the weeklong event will include behind-the-scenes tours at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Georgia Aquarium and laboratories at Georgia State and Emory Universities. There is something for everyone, from a Super Hero Science Night for the youngest scientists, to the “Science of Beer” workshop for the more seasoned, and thirsty explorers.

The Festival concludes with the ASF Exploration Expo on Saturday, March 29 – a daylong, free event in Centennial Olympic Park that will feature big-bang events, experiments, pop-up interactive exhibits, games, live entertainment, comedy shows and more. It will be a chance for people of all ages to explore their “inner scientist” and touch, feel, see, hear and taste different aspects of science. Visitors can touch a brain, grow their own bacteria, control robotic roaches with a mobile device, crawl into the inflatable planetarium, tour the GSU Bio-Bus and the STE(A)M Truck, explore the Maker Village, visit the Science Café Tent and the Biotechnology Tent, and explore 80+ interactive activities and performances that celebrate the excitement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Atlanta.

The goal of all this is to bring the entire community together, along with local scientists, artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs, to encourage everyone to celebrate the essential role of science and technology in our everyday lives. When children are introduced to STEM learning at a young age, they tend to do better in school and become aware of different career and educational paths available to them once they get to high school. In addition, a strong science educational foundation helps support our students for quality jobs in the future.

Many people and organizations have come together to develop and implement this event. It started as the brainchild of Sarah Peterson, Meisa Salaita and Jordan Rose at Emory University in 2011, who shared the idea of hosting a weeklong science celebration – modeled after similar science events in other major cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco – with the university leadership and won support to move forward with the plan. Emory University, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber are founding partners. The group has secured over 70 partners, including top-level sponsors Mercer University and Mercer Health Sciences Center, The National Science Foundation/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, Delta Air Lines, Inc., AT&T Mobility and Georgia State University.

For the latest information on the Atlanta Science Festival activities, visit or call (770) 322-4992. You can also follow the event on Facebook at AtlantaScienceFestival and on Twitter at @ATLSciFest.

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