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Column: Economic education think tank moving headquarters here

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 2, 2012

The Foundation for Economic Education will be moving its headquarters from New York to Atlanta in the fall, according to its president, Lawrence Reed.

The Foundation, which dates back to 1946, is the oldest free enterprise economics think tank in the United States, directly reaching about 15,000 students a year from around the world through weeklong seminars and other events. It also has a host of Web-based offerings that reach thousands more.

“We liked Georgia being a relatively low tax and right-to-work state with public opinion that is in line with our views of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, small government and personal character,” Reed said.

The Foundation has been based on a 7-acre estate in Irvington, N.Y., and was housed in a building that was 135 years old. It decided a couple of years ago that it needed to move and put that property up for sale. It already has an agreement to sell the land, and that should be completed by the end of this year.

A host of locations were considered for the headquarters, including the four finalists of Atlanta, Denver, Colorado Springs and Dallas.
Atlanta won out primarily because of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the comparatively low cost of living.

The Foundation already had a branch office in Atlanta at Peachtree Center.

Now it has narrowed its search to lease space in Midtown and possibly Buckhead. It currently has a permanent staff of 15 people, but during its summer seminars, it adds another eight staff members. Reed said the organization expects to grow in Atlanta, and it is looking for space that would be big enough for at least 30 people.

Reed, who was the speaker at the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Feb. 27, said the Foundation already has established a close relationship with Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific LLC, which is owned by privately held Koch Industries Inc. And the Foundation already holds four of its seven annual seminars in the Georgia-Pacific auditorium in downtown Atlanta.

“Charles Koch attended a FEE seminar, so when we looked around Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific, with his blessing, offered us the use of their auditorium,” said Reed, who has headed the Foundation since September 2008.

On the Foundation’s website, it states that it has “published or hosted lectures by some of the finest minds of the modern age, including Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Vernon Smith, Israel Kirzner, Walter Williams, George Stigler, Frank Chodorov, John Chamberlain, F.A. “Baldy” Harper, William F. Buckley Jr., among many others.”

Reed said the nonprofit organization does not endorse any political parties or candidates, and it does not get involved in politics. But Reed did add: “We have a firm philosophy that has political implications.”

The Foundation will be holding a major event in Atlanta in April as a way to introduce itself to the larger business community.

Libertarian John Stossel will be the keynote speaker at a dinner on April 12 at the Atlanta Renaissance Waverly Hotel. Stossel has been a longtime contributor to the Foundation’s magazine — The Freeman. He also will be promoting his new book: “No, They Can’t.”

CAP to honor Currey, Bansley

Central Atlanta Progress will honor two key Atlantans at its annual breakfast meeting on Wednesday, March 28, at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Bradley Currey Jr., retired CEO of Rock-Tenn Co. and a veteran civic leader, will receive the Dan Sweat Award. Trees Atlanta founder Marcia Bansley will receive the Turner Broadcasting Downtown Community Leadership Award.

The CAP meeting is a joint annual meeting with the sister organization — the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. This year’s theme will be: “Only in Downtown.”

Both Currey and Bansley are being recognized for their decades of contributing to the Atlanta community.

“Bradley and Marcia are two individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication and commitment to the growth and prosperity of downtown Atlanta throughout their accomplished careers,” CAP President A.J. Robinson said.

Global Soap Project

The Atlanta-based Global Soap Project has named its first-ever executive director — Sam Stephens, according to Ned Barker, chair of the three-year-old organization.

“Sam has a perfect mix of global perspective and extensive experience with leading and managing nonprofit organizations,” Barker said in a statement. The Global Soap Project recovers and recycles discarded soap from hotels. It melts and remolds the soap into new bars, then distributes them to people in developing countries.

“Their approach to dealing with global health issues such as hygiene and protecting young children and mothers combined with protecting the environment was appealing to me and I look forward to growing their impact around the world,” Stephens said.

Most recently, Stephens headed the International Center for Sustainable Fundraising, an Atlanta organization he founded.

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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