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ATL Business Chronicle Maria Saporta

Column: Atlanta SBA chief adds new role at White House office

Skyland campaign co-chairs Tom Johnson, Rand Glenn Hagan and Rex Fuqua stand with Dorothy Jordan (in white) who is the executive director of the Skyland Trail Adolescent Program (Special: Skyland Trail)

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Oct. 18, 2019

Ashley D. Bell, the Southeastern regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, is adding a new role.

Bell announced Oct. 16 he will serve as policy advisor on entrepreneurship and innovation in the White House Office of American Innovation.

The announcement was made at the Russell Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at 504 Fair St. NW, the former headquarters of H.J. Russell & Co.

Bell was appointed as regional SBA administrator on Feb. 21, 2018, serving the Atlanta-based district that covers eight Southeastern states. As administrator, Bell oversees $5 billion SBA-backed lending.

Ashley Bell

Bell is a former Hall County Commissioner and a co-founder of the Atlanta-based law firm of Bell & Washington. Prior to his SBA appointment, Bell served as associate director for external affairs for the U.S. Peace Corps and special assistant in the public affairs bureau of the United States Department of State.

During the transition of the Donald Trump/Michael Pence administration, he served as communications and intergovernmental affairs lead on the landing team at the U.S. State Department.

Prior to the 2016 election, Bell was a senior strategist for the Republican National Committee, and he created and implemented a strategic initiatives communications plan and media buy to engage minority communities.

Bell was one of four national spokespeople for the RNC and was a key surrogate for the Trump campaign. As national director of African American engagement for the RNC, he managed and provided strategic direction to more than 200 RNC field employees and thousands of volunteers in all 50 states.

Bell also is the founder of Generation Inspiration, whose mission is to teach life skills not taught in the classroom to at-risk students in his hometown of Gainesville, Ga. Each summer, the new members of Generation Inspiration undertake an intense eight-week summer leadership program focused on black history, personal financial accountability, networking, drug abuse prevention, economic development, social media for civic engagement and peer conflict resolution.

Gellerstedt and Four Pillar Tribute

When Larry Gellerstedt III accepted the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillar award on Oct. 10, he weaved the different elements of his life – personal and profession – as well as his multiple civic roles. The theme of the night was “Strength Through Diversity.”

Gellerstedt, Russell Allen, Michael Cassidy

Larry Gellerstedt, Russell Allen and Michael Cassidy at the Georgia Research Alliance quarterly meeting in 2018 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The dinner, which took place at the Georgia World Congress Center, featured leaders who spoke on behalf of Gellerstedt’s relationship to the four pillars of quality, responsibility, vision and integrity.

“I’ve known four generations of the Gellerstedt family,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. “Atlanta is a better place because you have called it home.”

Doug Hertz, chairman and CEO of United Distributors, spoke of a concept that Gellerstedt’s father – Larry Gellerstedt Jr. – had instilled in the Atlanta mindset – that of civic rent. If you’re a company, you have to not only pay your office rent, but also your civic rent.

“No one has taken civic responsibility more seriously than Larry,” said Hertz, mentioning the Fernbank Museum of Natural Science, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), the Woodruff Arts Center, the Atlanta Committee for Progress, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Research Alliance. “Larry has never shied away from paying civic rent. He is a model tenant of Atlanta.”

Donna Hyland, CHOA’s president and CEO, said Gellerstedt was instrumental in negotiating the merger of the children’s hospitals. During those negotiations, Hyland said Gellerstedt remained steadfast, calm and deliberate” despite having arrows coming from all directions. “Your vision has saved countless lives.”

Egbert Perry, CEO of The Integral Group, spoke of their friendship that dates back to Jan. 7, 1980, when Gellerstedt was better known as “Young Larry.”

“Larry is a name that comes to mind when people have something difficult to do that’s important,” said Perry, who then laughingly added, “No matter what lens you look through, you are a tremendous credit to your race.”

Gellerstedt spoke about his professional career that spanned the bookends of Beers Construction and Cousins Properties – saying he had been born with a leg up in life.

“In Atlanta real estate, being white and male was a huge advantage,” Gellerstedt said before adding that “all of us have prejudice.”

Gellerstedt then spoke of his own experience with mental illness – and how he had received institutional support to treat his suffering from anxiety and depression.

“When I got out, I realized I had almost died because I had a prejudice about mental illness,” Gellerstedt said.

In 2000, he went public to talk about his depression in an effort to reduce the stigma and to help others suffering from mental illness – despite being told it would cost him his career in Atlanta. When he got out, he taught school and coached baseball.

“Who called me – a black guy from Antigua named Egbert Perry,” said Gellerstedt, remembering how he became chief operating officer of Integral before starting his own real estate firm. He then was asked to lead Cousins, where he retired as CEO at the beginning of 2019.

Skyland Trail’s new campus opening

Adolescents suffering from mental illness now have a place to go in Atlanta.

Skyland Trail celebrated the grand opening of the J. Rex Fuqua Campus for adolescents on Oct. 10, thanks to the generosity of some of Atlanta’s largest foundations and wealthiest individuals.

Skyland campaign co-chairs Tom Johnson, Rand Glenn Hagan and Rex Fuqua stand with Dorothy Jordan (in white) who is the executive director of the Skyland Trail Adolescent Program (Special: Skyland Trail)

In all, Skyland Trail was able to raise a total of $21 million for the new campus on Dresden Drive in Chamblee. The co-chairs of the campaign were philanthropist Rex Fuqua; Tom Johnson, retired president of CNN; and Rand Glenn Hagan, who joined 200 mental health advocates, donors and guests for a ribbon-cutting of the new campus.

The new facility will treat adolescents from the ages of 14 to 17 who are struggling from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a unique program in the Southeast and one of only a handful nationwide.

The campus has 26 private bedrooms with private bathrooms; group therapy rooms and offices; therapeutic spaces for fitness, meditation, art and music activities; a learning lab for academic activities; common areas for socialization; a dining room that opens to an outdoor dining patio; and a courtyard as well as an outdoor sports court.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation provided the largest gift with a $4 million grant. Other key contributors included the Realan Foundation, the James M. Cox Foundation, the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, and the West Foundation.

“Skyland Trail’s adolescent treatment program will fill an urgent need in our region for evidence-based, high-quality residential mental health treatment for teens,” Fuqua said. “For many years, Skyland Trail has had a national reputation as a world-class mental health treatment organization. This new adolescent program will bring that same level of professional expertise and compassionate care to teens and their families, right when they need help the most.”

About half of the cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14, and 75 percent begin by age 24. In the United States, 20 percent of youth ages between the ages of 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition. Studies suggest that early diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders can improve long-term outcomes.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter wrote a letter Skyland CEO Beth Finnerty to offer congratulations for opening new campus.

“I’m very pleased to know that adolescents living with mental illnesses will have access to these excellent specialized services right here in Atlanta,” Carter wrote in the letter. “Skyland Trail has a strong reputation for providing adults with quality treatment, which will now be available to more teens and their families in Georgia.”

Kennesaw State receives $2 million gift

The Bobbie Bailey Foundation has made a total of $2 million in gifts to Kennesaw State University to support merit and needs-based scholarships for students attending the WellStar School of Nursing and the School of Music.

“Dr. Bailey was a longtime friend and supporter of Kennesaw State whose legacy lives on through her generosity to our students and this university,” KSU President Pamela Whitten said in a statement. “We are honored and grateful for this generous gift, which will help students pursue their passion and realize their dream of a college education.”

Bobbie Bailey (Special: Kennesaw State University)

This is the second contribution to KSU’s nursing program from the Bailey family. In 2001, Audrey B. Morgan, Dr. Bailey’s sister, longtime business partner, and current chairwoman and CEO of the Bobbie Bailey Foundation, established the Audrey Morgan Nursing Scholarship in recognition and support of outstanding nursing students. Since its inception, 11 scholarships have been awarded to promising KSU nursing students.

The Bobbie Bailey Endowed Music Scholarship will be awarded to full-time students in the School of Music. Preference will be given to students studying piano, string instruments, and music education. This gift provides a significant addition to the Bobbie Bailey Endowed Music Scholarship that was established in 2008.

In 2007, Bailey also funded an endowment to name the Bailey Performance Center and donated 44 Steinway pianos to the School of Music, enabling KSU to receive the honor of an All-Steinway designation. Four years later in 2012, Bailey honored her sister and her sister’s late husband through the naming of the Audrey B. and Jack E. Morgan Sr. Concert Hall. Bailey was 87 when she died on July 25, 2015.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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