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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Falcons’ Arthur Blank says he’s keeping his Westside jobs pledge

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 13, 2015

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation recognized that the best way to trigger reinvestment in a community would be through creating job opportunities.

So when Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank declared that the revitalization of the Westside neighborhoods would be equally important as building a new stadium for professional football and soccer, it was a given that new job opportunities would be part of the solution.

Blank pledged his foundation would commit at least $15 million into the Westside neighborhoods to help build “human capital,” and that it would help train at least 100 residents and provide jobs for them in the construction industry within the first year.

Westside Works, launched last July, is a training program to teach construction skills to community residents who may have had difficulty finding quality jobs because of a lack of experience or because of a checkered history. But the foundation understood that having a job allowed individuals an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families while also generating a sense of personal pride.

On Friday, March 13, more than three months before the first year anniversary, Westside Works will have met his goal of 100 new jobs for community residents.

The nonprofit partnership will hold a graduation ceremony for 38 students who are being matched with jobs in the construction industry–including opportunities to work with firms that are building the new Atlanta Falcons stadium across Northside Drive from Vine City and English Avenue. Westside Works already has placed 73 people in construction jobs since the inception of the program.

“For the past decade, our Family Foundation has been actively engaged in providing opportunities to serve Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, and we knew we wanted to do more,” Blank said through a spokeswoman. “I have said time and time again that the stadium by itself won’t transform the surrounding neighborhoods. It will take engagement from the public sector, private organizations, residents and business leaders to make lasting change a reality.”

Blank added that its $15 million commitment for “transformational community development on Atlanta’s Westside” will build upon and expand projects and initiatives that have been on the area’s wish list for decades.

“A lot of what we heard from residents was to focus our efforts on creating programs that build human capital,” Blank said. “Westside Works is a first step in that commitment, with our promise of 100 jobs in construction in the first year being achieved ahead of schedule. This is just the beginning, and we know that with the power of many, the Westside will rise.”

Frank Fernandez, who is vice president of community development for the Blank Foundation and has been focused on the Westside, said the new jobs have not been limited to the construction industry.

The Blank Foundation also has been working with partners to train area residents as nursing assistants, in the field of culinary arts and as auto technicians. So far, they have been able to place nine people in nursing assistant jobs and six people in culinary positions. The first auto technician class, being conducted in partnership with Genuine Parts-NAPA at the City of Refuge, will graduate in May.

Fernandez added that the foundation also is exploring other professions as well as partner organizations that could provide job opportunities for residents from the Westside communities.

“Part of our mantra is that we can’t do this on our own,” Fernandez said. “We want to galvanize attention and support for the Westside.”

MAP International hits $5 billion

Several Atlanta leaders and institutions celebrated a convergence of milestones when Georgia nonprofit group MAP International on March 9 passed its $5 billion mark of donated pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in a shipment to an impoverished region of Honduras.

The shipment was part of the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s partnership with Atlanta nonprofits HOI (formerly Honduras Outreach) and the HAVE Foundation for an upcoming mission trip to Honduras.

Steve Stirling, CEO of MAP, who attended the Rotary meeting on March 9, will be on-hand for the delivery of the shipment at a ceremony on March 19 at HOI’s medical clinic in the remote Agalta Valley of Honduras. The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, as well as the first lady of Honduras, are scheduled to be in attendance.

MAP celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014. Stirling said that through strategic partnerships, he hoped MAP would reach its $10 billion milestone in a much shorter time frame than 60 years–”maybe 10 years,” he said.

At the same meeting, Rotary District Governor Alicia Michael announced that Rotary International’s highest honor, the “Service Above Self Award,” was being given to a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta–Bob Hope–for his dedication to the Honduras mission and for his service to the Covenant House. “I’m thankful…and speechless,” Hope said.

National Christian Foundation

Atlanta-based National Christian Foundation, the 19th largest charity in the United States, has now opened a Georgia chapter.

NCF-Georgia is the 29th office to join the nationwide network of local NCF offices around the country.

“The effort to establish NCF Georgia is important because we are building a state-wide community of givers, professional advisors, and charities focused on the life-changing power of generosity,” said Bruce Neurohr, president of NCF-Georgia. “The effect we will have on Georgia as we all work together will be immeasurably greater than the work we could ever do on our own.”

Rick Cope, CEO of NanoLumens, will serve as the new board chair of NCF-Georgia. NanoLumens is an innovative digital display company headquartered in Norcross. Cope recently published a book on generosity, “The Third Bucket”.

Since 1982, NCF has accepted over $7 billion in donations and granted over $5 billion to more than 30,000 charities. NCF’s primary solution is the Giving Fund, which lets givers manage their giving online from any computer or mobile device.

White Coat Gala

Oh what a difference a decade can make.

At the annual White Coat Gala, the main fundraising event for Grady Hospital on March 14 at the Georgia Aquarium, the Concerned Black Clergy will be honored with the Ada Lee and Pete Correll Healthcare Legacy Award for its advocacy for access to quality health care for the underserved.

In the early days of the transformation of Grady Hospital by Atlanta business and civic leaders, there was a level of distrust and discord between the power structure and several organizations including the Concerned Black Clergy.

The award is being given because the coalition and “this highly valued and dynamic partnership has helped make Grady the vital community asset it is today,” according to the Grady Health Foundation and its president, Renay Blumenthal.

The other honorees at the 2015 gala will be:

Senior Sage Award: Dr. James “Jim” Reed, associate chair of medicine for research at the Morehouse School of Medicine and chief of endocrinology at Grady, who has practiced medicine for more than 50 years;

Inspiring Mentor Award: Dr. Guillermo Umpierrez, professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism at Emory University School of Medicine, and chief of diabetes and endocrinology at Grady who also heads up the Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program; and Next Generation Healer Award: Dr. Raul Nogueira, director of the Neuroendovascular Division at the Marcus Stroke & Neuroscience Center.

Trey Ragsdale

Long-time Atlanta business and civic leader Trey Ragsdale has been elected to the board of People to People International (PTPI).

“Understanding and experiencing other cultures helps identify opportunities for how we as a community can continue to grow locally and globally,” Ragsdale said. “I’ve watched my hometown grow into an international city, and I’m so excited about the opportunity to connect Atlanta’s leaders to the world and the world to Atlanta.”

Ragsdale has been involved with PTPI for more than seven years having co-founded the PTPI Atlanta Community Chapter in 2008 and serving as its first president.

Ragsdale manages External Relations for Kaiser Permanente in Georgia where he is responsible for securing government and community support for Kaiser Permanente’s healthcare initiatives throughout the state.  Ragsdale also has held roles at MARTA, King & Spalding and the Coca-Cola Co.

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.


1 Comment

  1. Guest March 18, 2015 11:47 pm


    The City is giving Arthur Blank close to $1 billion over 30 years, and you make a big deal out of $15 million from the Blank Foundation, when Federal law requires the Foundation to give away 5% of its assets each year anyway?  And by tying Foundation grants to a Blank business purpose (the new Falcons stadium), the Blank Foundation is arguably violating Federal self-dealing rules which govern a private, family Foundation.Report


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