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Column: New initiative will showcase Georgia’s business history

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 13, 2014

Georgia’s business history will soon be taking its place alongside the historical markers sprinkled all over the state.

The Georgia Historical Society is launching its board-approved Business History Initiative to fully recognize the contributions that the state’s significant companies have made to the evolution of the South, nationally and globally.

It will be launching the business initiative on June 17 in conjunction with the grand opening of the Delta Flight Museum. The museum is opening on that day because it is Delta’s 85th anniversary of passenger service, which began on June 17, 1929.

Delta Air Lines has signed up to be the flagship sponsor of the Georgia Historical Society’s Business History Initiative. “Delta is the perfect inaugural flagship partner for this project,” said Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “It is a perfect, iconic Georgia company that has had tremendous impact on the state and revolutionized flight and passenger travel.”

Although a historical marker listing the significance of Delta’s contributions to Georgia’s economy likely won’t be installed for a few weeks, Groce hopes that many other companies will follow Delta’s lead.

The Georgia Historical Society took over the state’s historic marker program in 1998, and it has been maintaining, replacing and installing markers ever since. Most Georgians are familiar with the markers being on the side of the road or on sidewalks depicting famous Civil War battles or events.

Groce, however, has been looking for ways to make the historic marker program more inclusive of Georgia’s history – to include its rich civil rights heritage as well as its business background.

Back in 2012, Waffle House approached the Georgia Historical Society with a request that they wanted a marker at its very first restaurant — located in Avondale Estates, which opened on Labor Day 1955. The restaurant chain had turned its first restaurant into a museum, and it wanted to have a historic marker to identify the significance of how it had grown over the decades.

“Waffle House initiated it, and that got us thinking,” Groce said. “We got a lot of positive feedback when we put up that historic marker.”

Now Groce said the Society will be taking the initiative and approaching companies that will be celebrating major anniversaries or milestones in their own histories to see if they would like to participate in the Business History Initiative.

It is offering companies different packages that include everything from having just a historic marker to having a curriculum or case study done on their company that would be taught in Georgia’s schools as a way to educate and inspire students. (The curriculum would be developed by the Georgia Council on Economic Education.)

Companies would select which package they would want, and it would cost $25,000 to $40,000.

“We are really excited about the Business History Initiative,” Groce said. “We want to make people more aware of the impact that businesses have had not just in Georgia but all over the world. We see this as an important part of our state’s history.”

Delta Flight Museum

For the past month, Delta has been giving its employees and special friends sneak peaks at its revamped museum. But it wanted to save its grand opening for June 17, the actual 85th anniversary of when it started offering passenger service.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson will be on hand for the official “invitation-only” opening of the 60,000-square-foot Flight Museum, which is housed in the airline’s two original maintenance hangars dating back to the 1940s. Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported plans for the new museum in June 2013.

Delta is only one of two U.S. airlines with a public museum. The other is American Airlines in Fort Worth.

Among the features in the museum are five historic aircraft: Spirit of Delta Boeing 767 (Delta’s first 767), donated by employees; Delta’s first DC-3, Ship 41, restored by employees and retirees; Waco 125 (the oldest in the collection, dating from 1929); Stinson SR-8E Reliant; TravelAir (the aircraft type that carried first DL passengers in 1929); and the Convair 880 cockpit, formerly at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s center in Underground Atlanta.

Other features at the opening will include employees wearing vintage uniforms throughout Delta’s history and a Boeing 737-200 full-motion simulator, the only one that is open to the public in the United States.

The museum will be available as a rental facility for meetings and events as well as for catered events that can seat up to 1,200 people.

The global reach of UPS

The recent announcement that David Abney will be the next CEO of United Parcel Service Inc. should remove any doubt about the growing international focus of the company.

Before becoming the chief operating officer of UPS, Abney was president of UPS International. He also has been, and continues to be, chairman of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta.

Ed Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation, also talked about the company’s global reach in a keynote talk to the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on June 7. Martinez said there were more than 32,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Georgia — companies that “are enriching our great city and state in all aspects of everyday life.”

But Martinez went on to urge them to look at the world differently than they have — to view “disruption as a force for innovation and growth” and saying that “acting globally is now an imperative” in doing business.

“Thinking globally is just not good enough,” he said, adding that it is critically important for Hispanic companies to begin looking to sell their products in other markets. “UPS moves 6 percent of the U.S. GDP and 2 percent of the world’s GDP. So we have a good pulse of global economic trends.”

Not only is more business shifting to online transactions, Martinez said, but “we’re also witnessing dramatic shifts in the economic balance of power” in the world.

“Roughly 1 billion people from developing countries are now entering the market for goods and services which they see on display in the developed world,” Martinez said. “As more of the world’s economic growth shifts to emerging economies and frontier markets like Myanmar, those of us in the developed economies must come to grips with a new reality. The U.S. no longer holds a birthright to innovation.”

U.S. companies, however, can choose whether they want to participate in the new economy by embracing in global trade and exports.

“But today, less that 1 percent of 30 million U.S. businesses export, and of those, nearly 60 percent ship to just one country,” Martinez said, adding that he suspects those percentages also reflect the export profile of Georgia’s Hispanic-owned companies.

Today the total value of trade worldwide is in excess of $20 trillion, he said. “Some experts believe that this number will triple over the next generation. The implications will be enormous for all of us,” Martinez said. “As a consumer, the world suddenly becomes your store. As a business person, the world becomes your customer. So I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that exporting can bring your business, brand and community.”

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Using the tagline “Everyone wins when cancer loses,” the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2014 Atlanta Man & Woman of the Year fundraising gala will be held on June 14 at the Loew’s Hotel.

It culminates an exciting couple of months for the Society, which has held similar events in Augusta and Savannah, where it has raised $237,000 and $307,000, respectively.

The Atlanta gala is projected to bring in as much as $600,000, which would mean that the Society will have raised more than $1 million statewide for this campaign, according to Alana Kootsikas, the nonprofit’s senior director of events and external development.

The Atlanta gala is projected to bring in as much as $600,000, which would mean that the Society will have raised more than $1 million statewide for this campaign, according to Alana Kootsikas, the nonprofit’s senior director of events and external development.

Also, Gov. Nathan Deal proclaimed June 6th Leukemia & Lymphoma Awareness Day in Georgia, honoring several patients and survivors.

Deal signed a proclamation that stated that more than one million people in the United States are living with a blood cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma or myelodysplastic syndromes, which can affect cells in the blood, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system.

It also stated that LLS-funded research has led to the discovery and development of lifesaving therapies, including targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Since its inception, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in blood cancer research.

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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