Column: Linginfelter ready to tackle big metro issues at Metro Atlanta Chamber

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 4, 2009

Just a couple of weeks ago, Bill Linginfelter realized that he would become chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber at its 150th annual meeting Dec. 3.

It was a humbling moment for the “history buff,” who recognizes the pivotal role that the Metro Chamber has played in Atlanta since 1859.

“What’s amazing about this chamber is that its character and its mission has been the same,” said Linginfelter, Regions Bank’s area president for Georgia and South Carolina. “It has been tackling and dealing with the big issues like transportation and Grady Hospital all these years. It played a role in getting the Olympics. It was on the right side of history during the Civil Rights Movement. This chamber has had unusual leadership throughout.”

Linginfelter now adopts that legacy of leadership for his year as chairman of one of the state’s largest business organizations and perhaps its most influential.

Topping the chamber’s agenda in 2010 will be working with the state leadership on helping find solutions to metro Atlanta’s water crisis and working on getting state support for future transportation funding.

“Every year, we tackle those quality-of-life issues that help make Atlanta a wonderful place to live,” Linginfelter said. “The chamber goes in and lays out the issues to the governor and other leaders. We will pay for the research. We will pay for polling. And we get in-kind contributions from our members. We help lay the groundwork for good public policy decisions.”

Transportation funding has been a top metro issue the whole time Linginfelter has been involved with the chamber. The chamber’s goal has been to get state support to permit voters in the region to pass a 1 cent sales tax for transportation. So far, such legislation has failed to pass the legislature.

But the chamber and others will keep trying, Linginfelter said.

This will be an unusual year for the chamber because there will be a new mayor at Atlanta’s City Hall, and the state will be holding elections for all the top posts, including governor.

On the city front, Linginfelter said he met with both Kasim Reed and Mary Norwood before the Atlanta mayoral run-off election Dec. 1 to offer the chamber’s support and cooperation should they be elected mayor.

“They both said that’s great and that they will need to work closely with the business community,” Linginfelter said. “We are here for them.”

Linginfelter also hopes to be able to build greater alliances with the other major urban areas in the state — Savannah, Macon, Augusta, Columbus, etc. “We think there’s value in helping each other,” Linginfelter said. “We are interconnected economically.”

Chamber diversity

The 2010 Metro Atlanta Chamber’s 46-member executive committee will be more diverse when it comes to race and gender.

The African-American men include Atlanta Life’s Bill Clement; Morehouse College President Robert Franklin; Wachovia’s Darryl Harmon; Macquarium’s Art Hopkins; and builder Michael Russell.

The African-American women include Spelman College President Beverly Tatum; Marriott’s Erica Qualls; and Bank of America’s Geri Thomas.

And the white women include Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s Monye Connolly; Ernst & Young LLP’s Karole Lloyd; The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Penny McPhee; Jones Day’s Lizanne Thomas; The Home Depot Inc.’s Carol Tomé; Kilpatrick Stockton LLP’s Diane Prucino; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Inc.’s Donna Hyland; and Pathbuilders’ Helene Lollis.

Having diversity can be a challenge in the Atlanta business community.

In its 150 years, the Metro Atlanta Chamber has only had one woman chair, Jackie Ward of Computer Generation; and four African-American chairs: builder Herman Russell; Atlanta Life’s Jesse Hill; former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and The Coca-Cola Co.’s Carl Ware.

GSU to honor Gayle

CARE USA President and CEO Helene Gayle will receive the 2009 Ethics Advocate Award from Georgia State University’s Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility. The event will take place the evening of Dec. 8 at the Cecil B. Day Chapel of the Carter Center.

Gayle was selected for her leadership in addressing the issues of global poverty, injustice and inequality. She has been advocate on behalf of women, minorities and the poor while inspiring others, including global corporations, to partner in helping those around the world.

This is the seventh year that the Ethics Advocate Award has recognized an individual who has been an effective advocate of change. Last year, the award went to retired Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell.

CCCS honored nationally

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta has been cited as a nationally recognized leader in effective housing counseling by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Center recently published a guide on “High Impact Philanthropy in the Downturn, and CCCS of Greater Atlanta was cited as a “Model in Practice” for effective foreclosure prevention counseling.

CEOs supporting Ron Clark

The Atlanta CEO Council decided to do something special for its 10th Anniversary Fundraiser. It designated the nationally renowned Ron Clark Academy as the recipient of its first community fundraising effort.

The fundraiser will take place Monday, Dec. 7, at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta — recognized for its innovative educational methods.

In a statement, Atlanta CEO Council co-founder and Chairman Palaniswamy “Raj” Rahan said the Ron Clark Academy “is an opportunity for CEOs to invest in and promote our next generation of leaders and business innovators.”

Rahan, chairman and CEO of Virima Technologies, said the Atlanta CEO Council is committed to investing in the community.

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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