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Column: Liz Koch works to make entrepreneurship an educational priority

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 27, 2016

State business leaders are being asked to join the Chairman’s Circle of Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia – a nonprofit started by Elizabeth Koch in 2006.

Liz Koch is the wife of billionaire Charles Koch, an owner of Koch Industries, which bought Georgia-Pacific in 2005.

Liz Koch Jim Hannan

Elizabeth Koch and Jim Hannan at recent reception celebrating 10 years of Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Chairman’s Circle was launched May 19 at a reception at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The goal of YE Georgia is to make entrepreneurship an educational priority for public schools. So far, YE Georgia operates in public schools in Atlanta, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett. “We’re in 13 schools, and we are serving 360 students,” Mrs. Koch said at the reception. It started in two Atlanta schools serving only 38 students. Since it started, YE Georgia has reached about 2,000 students.

The event was held to encourage companies, foundations and individuals to become founding members of the Chairman’s Circle. Individuals and small businesses are being asked to make gifts of between $2,500 and $10,000. Corporations and foundations are being asked to give $10,000 to $50,000.

Already Georgia-Pacific, Chick-fil-A, the Coca-Cola Foundation, Wells Fargo and others are part of the Chairman’s Council.

Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific, said entrepreneurship “is at the heart of our company.” Too many high school graduates are unprepared when they enter the business world, Hannan said, adding that “we want YE Georgia grads to become innovators.”

Scott Brown, executive director of YE Georgia and manager of community relations for Georgia-Pacific, said the goal is reach 1,000 new students by 2020. He added that “91 percent of our inaugural class graduated.”

Engage Cuba

A group of state business, political and civic leaders have launched the Georgia State Council of Engage Cuba, holding a lunch at the Capital City Club on May 23.

The goal of the national organization is to dismantle the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba to permit the free flow of travel and goods between the two countries. Among the members of the Georgia Council are Dennis Wynn, director of membership development for Choice Hotels, which is planning a hotel development in old Havana; Justin Clay, director of government relations for NCR; Jann Moore, government affairs manager of Caterpillar; Gary Black, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner; Mark Butler, Georgia’s labor commissioner; John Cushnie, senior vice president of investor engagement for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Tas Smith of the Georgia Farm Bureau; Ron Stephens, chairman of the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee; and John Key of the Pan American Council on Trade.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization already has established state councils in five other states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and Minnesota.

“We will probably have five to six more councils in the next six to eight weeks,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “We are moving first to the strategic states – the ones that would benefit the most (if the trade embargo was lifted).”

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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