Column: Deloitte’s Ed Heys takes over ‘new’ Georgia Chamber

By Maria Saporta
Friday, January 6, 2012

When Ed Heys becomes the new chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 9, he will take over an organization that has changed in several significant ways in just the past couple of years.

Heys, who is the Atlanta managing partner for Deloitte, will be leading an organization that has just enjoyed a record membership campaign — raising $2.02 million in 2011, nearly a 10 percent increase from its previous record of $1.87 million in 2010.

The Georgia Chamber also created a legislative scorecard to keep legislators accountable, it has formed a political action committee so it can support business-friendly candidates, it has expanded its reach by hiring a liaison to work on federal issues, it has created a Small Business Advisory Council to have more input from the majority of companies in the state, it has been on its first international trade mission, and it was a full partner in Gov. Nathan Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the year that the Chamber has had,” said Doug Carter, outgoing chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and president of Don Carter Realty in Gainesville. “In my mind, we have created a new chamber. The one that exists today is very different than the one that existed a year ago.”

Carter credited much of the change to the hiring of Chris Clark to be the organization’s new president in late 2010.

“I’ve been so pleased with the new energy and new excitement around the organization,” Carter said. “We have been making it much more of a statewide organization that is working closely with local chambers.”

Heys, who chaired the annual membership campaign, said that its 3,000 members are responding to the renewed energy in the organization as more companies are becoming members and more companies are retaining their membership and increasing their contributions. For example, the chamber now has 221 “cornerstone members,” who contribute at least $11,000 a year to the organization.

Another major reason the Georgia Chamber has boosted its profile is because it launched the Georgia Initiative four years ago — a five-year, $7.5 million campaign to help make the organization become more “proactive” rather than “reactive.”

Clark said that Heys helped lead the first Georgia Initiative campaign, and now plans are being made for the next campaign.

“Ed Heys has been such a steady hand over here,” Clark said, adding that Carter and Heys were a great team — a small-business owner from Gainesville and a major Atlanta executive with global interests.

“We all feel the momentum of the organization,” Heys said. “We have become much more proactive on issues. And the members see the value in what the chamber is trying to provide.”

Continuing the tradition of chamber leadership alternating between an Atlanta executive and a business leader out in the state, the 2013 chair will be Stephen Green, president and CEO of Stephen Green Properties in Savannah. Green also has been a long-standing board member of the Georgia Ports Authority and served as its chair for several years.

Following Green will be Ernest Greer, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig in Atlanta. Greer will become the second African-American to chair the Georgia Chamber. The first was architect Robert Brown from Decatur.

Crohn’s fighters

The Georgia chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation will hold its 21st Annual Torch Gala at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead on Jan. 28, when it will honor a family with a close history to the organization.

Atlanta residents Ann and Jay Davis as well as their son, Richard, will be the 2012 Torch Gala Citizens of the Year.

The Davises, who have several family members with the disease, including their son Richard, have been “devoted” fundraisers, volunteers and advocates for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

According to the organization, the family has “joined planning committees, engaged in grass-roots fundraising efforts and participated in special events and fundraising campaigns.”

They recognize the importance of research so the Davis family has played an integral role in establishing the “Human Gut Microbiome Initiative” by being the first major donors to the project.

“It is an honor for our family to be chosen as CCFA’s Torch Gala Citizens of the Year,” Jay Davis said. “We consider the Georgia chapter part of our extended family, and we will continue to do what we can to further the advancement of research.”

Steven Goodman, co-chair of the 2012 Torch Gala and a national trustee of the organization, said: “It’s incredible to see so many dedicated individuals fighting to make a difference in people’s lives. To be surrounded by such generosity and support is how CCFA can continue to provide research and further success in the field.”

The Torch Gala, the largest single fundraiser for the Georgia chapter, seeks to raise money to cure and prevent Crohn’s disease and for ulcerative colitive research. To date, the Torch Gala has raised more than $5.1 million. About 1.5 million Americans are living with these diseases.

College-bound Posse

Posse Atlanta has awarded 52 local high school students four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships worth more than $7 million to attend Bard College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Syracuse University and the College of Wooster in the fall of 2012.

Posse Atlanta and its partners recognized these scholars at an awards ceremony on Dec. 14 at the Georgia-Pacific auditorium. More than 850 Atlanta students competed to become Posse Scholars.

Posse Atlanta also has a new director — Zenith Houston — who joined the organization in December. Previously, Houston was director of regional development at National Jewish Health. She also was a fundraising consultant with Gaillard Houston & Associates.

Money for Professors

The Gail McKnight Beckman Trust will honor 15 distinguished professors from universities across the country at an awards ceremony Jan. 7 at The Carter Center.

Each professor will receive a one-time $25,000 cash award to thank them for inspiring their students to make a difference in the community, for a total contribution of $375,000.

“The awards were created to benefit current or former academic faculty members who have inspired their students to create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large,” said Joyce Yamaato, vice president of Wells Fargo and senior trust and fiduciary specialist. “The academic faculty member must have inspired a student to establish, on a lasting basis, a concept, procedure, or movement of comparable benefit to the community at large.”

The trust, which is administered by the Wells Fargo’s Philanthropic Services group, was founded in 2008 under the will of Gail McKnight Beckman in honor of her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman.

Dr. Beckman was an educator, a renowned author and a pioneer in the field of psychology. She was one of the first female psychology professors at Columbia University and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania.

Borders and Reed

One would have never known that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Lisa Borders had been fierce opponents during the 2009 race for mayor.

Borders, former president of the Atlanta City Council, introduced Reed at the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta’s luncheon meeting on Jan. 3.

“I know this man; I know Kasim Reed,” Borders said. “We ran against each other. We each had to participate in 58 debates. A couple of days after he won, he said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me it was going to be so hard?’ ‘I tried — 58 times.’ ”

Borders called Reed a “great winner,” reminding Kiwanians that he asked her to serve as co-chair of his transition team. She said he has honored “darn near all of” the promises he made during the campaign, and he’s been able to do that in two years.

Reed thanked Borders for the introduction.

“I’m not sure who really won that election,” Reed said. “She looks so good, and me …”

He then put his hand to his face to show how weary he has become as the city’s 59th mayor.

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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