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ATL Business Chronicle Maria's Metro

Column: Gov. Deal leading state push to pass transportation referendum

By Maria Saporta
Friday, May 18, 2012

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is on the campaign trail — this time to help pass the regional 1 percent sales tax for transportation in metro Atlanta and in 11 other regions around the state.

On May 23, Deal is inviting business and civic leaders to the home of Jennifer and Tom Bell in Buckhead to a reception aimed at raising campaign dollars to help get the tax passed in the 11 regions outside of metro Atlanta.

The goal is to raise a total of $4.5 million among the regions for a grass-roots campaign in favor of the transportation sales tax. So far, the Connect Georgia campaign has raised between $2.5 million and $3 million, according to Chris Clark, president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“The governor is putting in a lot of effort to pass this, and not only on the fundraising front,” Clark said.Already, the governor had a similar reception on May 14 in Savannah. Another reception is planned in Augusta in June.

The hope is that the reception in Bell’s home will raise at least $250,000. Fundraising efforts also are under way within each of the 11 regions. By comparison, the fundraising effort to pass the regional transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta is expected to total as much as $8 million.

It is interesting that Bell, a former chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber who has worked on a host of initiatives in the Atlanta region, would host a reception to raise campaign dollars to get the tax passed in other areas of the state.

But Clark said Bell is one of a host of business leaders who understands the economic interdependence between the Atlanta region and the rest of the state, and the need to have mobility to move goods and services between regions.

“So many companies in Atlanta do business around the state,” Clark said.
“People are seeing this as an opportunity to complete projects that have been planned for years.”

Clark said the effort is being supported by local chambers in Georgia communities. Both the Brunswick Chamber and the Albany Chamber passed a resolutions in the past few days in support of the transportation tax.

The statewide effort is being headed by the Georgia Transportation Alliance, which is headed by Doug Callaway. The contribution levels are as follows: Platinum sponsor: $100,000; Gold sponsor: $50,000; Bronze sponsor: $10,000; Team sponsor: $5,000; Patron sponsor: $2,500. The cost to attend the reception at Bell’s home is $1,000 per person.

“We have the opportunity to be very competitive in each of those regions,” Clark said.

Asked what would be a successful campaign, Clark answered that it would be getting the sales tax passed in at least half of the state’s 12 regions.

Heroes, Saints & Legends

The annual Heroes, Saints & Legends gala on May 10, which benefits the Foundation of Wesley Woods, was especially meaningful for Ingrid Saunders Jones, the honorary chair of the event.

Jones said her 96-year-old mother moved to Wesley Woods when she was 87. Jones said, “It is a part of my family.”

The dinner also honored Carl Ware, a former executive vice president of The Coca-Cola Co. who also had served as president of the Atlanta City Council. Jones introduced Ware as her mentor. The two had worked together at Atlanta City Hall during the administration of Mayor Maynard Jackson. And then Jones joined Ware at Coca-Cola, where she is a senior vice president.

Ann Cramer, IBM’s director of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, also was honored. She was introduced by Milton Little, president of Metro Atlanta’s United Way, who called her “a human exclamation point.”

Truett Cathy, founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A, also was honored for all his business and philanthropic contributions.

Coke scientist honored

The White House earlier this month honored Coca-Cola scientist Rafael San Miguel with a “Champion of Change” award for providing education and employment opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math for people with disabilities.

San Miguel, who is deaf, is a senior flavor chemist and sweetener scientist for The Coca-Cola Co. San Miguel, who has been profoundly deaf since infancy, has dedicated much of his life to inspiring young people to enter careers in math and science. He also has tried to emphasize people’s “abilities” rather than their disabilities.

$41M for northeast Georgia

The North Georgia Community Foundation recently surpassed the $40 million mark in the amount of grants it has awarded to nonprofit organizations since it was founded in 1985.

The Gainesville, Ga.-based community foundation has used donor-endowed funds and other charitable contributions to award a total of $41.1 million in grants to organizations created to enhance the quality of life in northeast Georgia.

It serves Banks, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties.

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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