Column: New JA Discovery Center in Gwinnett set to open later this year

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Jan. 23, 2015

The Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett already has met and exceeded its fundraising target, and 96 percent of its storefronts have been leased, according to Jack Harris, president of Junior Achievement of Georgia.

Construction already is underway on the 50,000-square-foot center that is being built as part of a new high school in the middle of Gwinnett County, and it is on track to serve every 6th and 8th grader in the Gwinnett County Public School System through the JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

“It will be fully operational for the 2015-2016 school year serving over 28,000 students from Gwinnett County Public Schools annually,” Harris wrote in an email. “Between the site in Gwinnett and Downtown, we will be reaching a fourth of the state’s student population.”

Harris said that about half of the companies involved downtown are also part of the Gwinnett Discovery Center. And Gwinnett also has attracted a number of new partners. In all, there are only two storefront opportunities available before it is sold out.

The Discovery Center gives students a hands-on experience on how to manage real-life experiences – a family budget, a job and career-ready and life-ready skills. The goal is to highlight the value and relevance of education by offering applicable life lessons.

The confirmed partners at the Gwinnett JA Discovery Center are: Assurant, the presenting sponsor of JA Finance Park; Cisco, the presenting sponsor of JA BizTown;

Chick-fil-A, the presenting sponsor of the Café; and Home Depot, the presenting sponsor of the Career Exploration Center.

Other participating companies and organizations are: AT&T/Cricket Wireless, Atlanta Braves/Gwinnett Braves, AutoTrader, Belk, Brand Bank, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, Delta Air Lines, Delta Community Credit Union, Elavon, Georgia Gwinnett College, Georgia Power, Georgia State University, Georgia United Credit Union, Gwinnett County government, Gwinnett Medical Center, Hire Dynamics, Kauffman Tire, InterContinental Hotels Group, NCR, Nordson Corp., Primerica, Publix Super Markets, PulteGroup, QuikTrip, RockTenn, SunTrust Banks, United Way of Greater Atlanta and Wells Fargo.

Georgia Research Alliance

The Georgia Research Alliance, a public-private partnership between the state’s eight research universities and top business leaders, is being re-aligned with its base – the Georgia Board of Regents.

At its quarterly board meeting on Jan. 22, Gov. Nathan Deal explained to the GRA board why he was recommending that the GRA’s public budget be part of the Regents instead of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Deal had moved the GRA to Economic Development early in his administration.

The governor said the move “will provide better coordination between public and private universities and a more flexible platform.” Chris Carr, the commissioner of economic development, will continue to serve on GRA’s board.

In talking to the GRA board, Deal seemed to have bought into GRA’s mission of promoting the state’s research and development capabilities as well as its 25-year track record. “I want to compliment you on your eminent scholars program,” he said, and then went on to mention GRA’s various venture funds and mentoring programs. “You have helped us gain the eye of the world.”

When it comes to attracting companies that need skilled workers, Deal asked GRA members for help. “We want them, when they look at us, to not only look at the surface but also look beneath the surface,” the governor said about future investments in education. “We don’t want them to be vagabonds because we could not provide them the workforce to be successful. It takes some hard work. It takes talking to members of the General Assembly. They need to know that you, as part of the business community and the higher-ed community, that you will support them.”

Buckhead Coalition annual meeting

The Buckhead Coalition has a new chairman – Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of InterContinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

At the annual meeting on Jan. 28 at 103 West, Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell was not phased by the fact that Sprecher was out of town when he was being voted in by the membership. In fact, he later confessed to honored guest Ted Turner that he had never met three of his 100 members.

Outgoing chairman Dave Fitzgerald was there to receive his crystal buck head, which he said he would display either at his home or his office, which are both in Buckhead.

The other officers who were voted in included auto dealer Juanita Baranco and banker Joseph Evans as vice presidents; Maxine Hicks as secretary; and Charles Crawford as treasurer.

Members of the executive committee will be W. Jackson Hook, E. Andrew Isakson, Linda A. Klein, Paul D. Little, Charles H. Mann III, Samuel Candler, David Cummings and Sheffield Hale.

Both Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Fulton County Chairman John Eaves spoke briefly to the gathering.

Eaves thanked Buckhead leaders personally for lobbying against the formation of Milton County and for keeping Fulton County in one piece.

“For the first time in 15 years, the board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to a $627 million budget with $121 million in reserves,” Eaves said. “I’m very excited about the new day in Fulton County.”

Georgia Trend luncheon

What a difference a year makes. At Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential luncheon on Jan. 27, several references were made to last year’s lunch when Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed were honoring each other while the city and the region was being paralyzed by SnowJam 2014.

Publisher Neely Young made a passing reference that they had thought about moving the 2015 luncheon to the Northeast, which was then being hit with a brutal snowstorm.

All jokes aside, this year two men – unusual bedfellows perhaps, were inducted into Georgia Trend’s Hall of Fame – Bill Bolling, the founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank; and retired U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia).

Bolling spoke with genuine appreciation of how Chambliss had been instrumental to helping his causes through his service on the Senate Agricultural Committee.

Chambliss was just as gracious.

“Unlike Bill, I know my recognition has a lot more to do with my age than my accomplishments. We are certainly looking forward to the life after,” Chambliss said. “The epitome of 20 years of public service is being able to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bill Bolling.”

Chancellor Hank Huckaby, who oversees state’s 30 public colleges and universities, was Georgia Trend’s Georgian of the Year.

Huckaby spoke about the need for Georgia to better serve non-traditional students and to offer more options, such as online classes. He promised that he and his team would continue to do all they could to have a better educated Georgia.

All in the family at Rollins

Rollins Inc. has added another family member to its board. Pam R. Rollins, the daughter of Chairman R. Randall Rollins, holds a B.A. degree from Stephens College with a major in family community studies. She is a board member for Young Harris College, the National Monuments Foundation and the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation.

She is also a former board member of the Lovett School and an emeritus board member of the Schenck School. She also is the granddaughter of the founder of Rollins Inc.

“Pam Rollins brings a distinct interest in a wide range of matters regarding social responsibility, making her a valuable component for a well-rounded board,” said her father, Randall Rollins.  “We look forward to her contributions to our board in the years ahead.”

Rollins is a global consumer and commercial services company known for its pest and animal control businesses.

It has been in the news in the past two or three years when the children of CEO Gary Rollins filed a lawsuit against their father and their uncle, Randall Rollins, with the management of the inheritance left to them by their grandfather. Glen Rollins, who used to serve on the company’s board and as an executive, became estranged from the company.

 

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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