Column: Kathy Betty moving forward with Atlanta Dream

By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 6, 2009

Atlanta has a new woman executive on the scene — Kathy Betty — the new owner of the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA franchise.

Oddly enough, Betty becoming a professional sports team owner may have been predestined.

She remembers when both she and her late husband, Garry Betty, had been asked separately to fill out a questionnaire about what would have been another career choice for them. At the time, Garry Betty was CEO of EarthLink Inc., the Internet services provider.

Both of them gave as their first answer becoming professional golfers. But their second choice was to become a professional sports team owner.

Now Kathy Betty is playing out the dream that she wishes she could be sharing with her late husband.

“I don’t have Garry. I wish I could change it,” she said. “But I’m moving forward. It is my life now.”

In the three years since her husband passed away from cancer, Betty said she has been offered several investment opportunities. But nothing felt right until she was approached by A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress; and public relations executive Bob Hope, about the opportunity to buy the Atlanta Dream.

“I could not have done this a year ago,” Betty said. “Eventually, you realize your life has to go on.”

And the competitive and civic aspects of the Atlanta Dream appealed to her. Betty, who has a background in finance and business consulting, is viewing the Atlanta Dream as a challenge, especially when people tell her that professional sports teams don’t make money.

“I’m so motivated,” said Betty, 53. “So many people have said you can’t make money. I’m so competitive. It’s all about making money to me.”

But she also said there’s a dual mission; it’s also about giving back to Atlanta and mentoring young girls and young boys.

Betty, who becomes the first woman owner of a major sports team in Atlanta, then quickly adds: “I can’t leave out how much fun it’s going to be.”

Nonprofits struggling

No two ways about it. The past 12 months have been awfully difficult for nonprofit organizations.

At the annual meeting of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta on Nov. 3, three nonprofit executives described their economic challenges.

“Since 1991, this has been the most difficult time I’ve ever experienced,” said Gary Miller, director of Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta. Demand for services has increased, but government funding has decreased and fundraising has been flat.

Subie Green, president of the Center for the Visually Impaired, said it’s been “disheartening” for the agency’s state funding to have been cut back significantly in the past year. “It’s a tough time, and it keeps going,” she said.

As a result, nonprofits are having to respond in creative ways. Green said her center is partnering with a national affiliate — Prevent Blindness Georgia — that will be moving to her building, offering greater opportunities for collaboration.

Jackye Brown, director of the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, said her agency has been branching out to providing housing, making it eligible to receive stimulus funding.

The Community Foundation also awarded its “Managing for Excellence” Award to Open Hand with a prize of $25,000. Open Hand has been able to show “the importance of effective management to an organization’s survival,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation. Open Hand has developed new revenue sources, such as selling its Good Measure Meals, to help it continue delivering services.

Philipp also spoke on how the Community Foundation has weathered this period. In 2008, it received $126.5 million in contributions and made grants of $96 million. Its endowment had gone down by 19 percent to $600 million. It currently stands at $627 million.

To date this year, the foundation has received $74 million in gifts, and Philipp is optimistic the economic conditions will improve in the coming year.

Love at Kiwanis

Printpack Inc. is a privately held, family-owned manufacturer of flexible packaging that has been operating in Atlanta for 53 years. But Dennis Love, president and CEO of the company, knows that his company is not one of Atlanta’s household names.

Love spoke of Printpack at the Atlanta Kiwanis meeting Nov. 3, telling the audience the company has 27 plants employing 4,400 around the world. And its products likely are in everyone’s home, including candy wrappers and other food-packaging products.

Printpack is the second-largest manufacturer of flexible packaging in the United States, but Love said it is a distant second.

It currently is building plants in Shanghai and Poland. It also is working with its customers on developing greener products, including compostable plastics. For example, by Earth Day, SunChips plans to have all its bags made of compostable materials.

Arnold to be Rotary prez

The Rotary Club of Atlanta on Nov. 2 selected Claire “Yum” Arnold to be its president for 2011-2012. Arnold is CEO of Leapfrog Services Inc, and she’ll be the club’s second woman president. Paula Lawton Bevington served 1999-2000.

Downtown day

Central Atlanta Progress will hold its annual Downtown Development Day program on Nov. 10 at AmericasMart.

Georgia State University President Mark Becker will present the keynote address in the morning.

Then there will be several breakout sessions, one on infrastructure improvements downtown, including the Streetcar project and the possibility for high-speed rail. A second breakout session will be on “A New Outlook on Real Estate Financing.” And the third will look at “What’s Ahead on the Horizon,” including Atlanta’s prospects for growth under a new city administration.

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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