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ATL Business Chronicle Maria Saporta

Column: Prominent Atlanta tech attorney John Yates to lead Woodruff campaign

John Yates John Yates at the offices of Morris, Manning & Martin (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Oct. 12, 2018

As the Woodruff Arts Center celebrates its 50th anniversary, its annual corporate campaign is being kicked off under the leadership of John Yates, a partner of Morris, Manning & Martin.

Yates said he agreed to chair the 2018-2019 corporate campaign because a strong and vibrant arts and cultural community is critical to Atlanta’s economic well-being.

John Yates

John Yates at the offices of Morris, Manning & Martin (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The campaign goal has been set at $13 million, which was the goal during the previous year. That campaign fell short by about 5 percent, raising $12.3 million.

“I felt it was a civic duty to be supportive of the Woodruff Arts Center,” said Yates, who added that it is the third-largest arts center in the country, but it receives only 1 percent of its revenue from public sources – a fraction of the government support that its peer institutions receive across the country.

“In Atlanta, we have such a wonderful base of support in the business community. We have to support the arts,” Yates said. “The negative is public funding. If we are going to have the arts and culture in the community, it’s up to us.”

The corporate campaign usually raises about a third of all of the Woodruff Arts Center’s fundraising. The previous fiscal year was an aberration – when the Center raised a total of $46.2 million in contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals.

That included $11.2 million funds raised from the Center’s “bridge” campaign that is being invested in its infrastructure in addition to the corporate campaign.

The Center – the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Alliance Theatre and the High Museum of Art – had a financial surplus in 2018, and the annual campaign “was a significant contributor,” according to WAC spokesman Randy Donaldson.

The WAC annual corporate campaign raised $13.5 million in fiscal year 2017; $13.8 million in 2016; and $13.6 million in 2015. At the same time, WAC successfully completed a $110 million “Transformation” campaign that included solidifying ASO’s endowed musicians and a dramatic renovation of the Alliance Theatre.

John Yates

John Yates at the offices of Morris, Manning & Martin (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Yates and his wife, Ellen, first became involved in the Center by going to the symphony and becoming part of its leadership. Yates said it’s important for leaders to “earn” their way to serving on boards. If he is going to ask other business leaders to support a worthy cause, it’s important to show a track record of support and to explain the importance of having a viable arts community in the region.

Earlier this year, the Center gave Morris, Manning & Martin attorneys and staff the “Employees for the Arts Needle Mover Award” for the largest percentage increase in donations. Also, Ellen Yates is a Leadership Member of the Woodruff’s Women’s Giving Circle.

John Yates will participate in the 2018 State of the Arts breakfast on Oct. 23, which will highlight the milestones of WAC and its artistic partners during the year.

As head of MMM technology practice, Yates said he will focus on prospective donors to the campaign – especially among innovators and entrepreneurs, who have a vested interest in Atlanta having a strong cultural community.

“That’s a subset of the Atlanta business community that’s been largely untapped. But they are people who appreciate a community that has the arts, sports and other amenities,” Yates said. “Any major city in the world that wants to be at the top of the list has to have a wonderful arts and cultural base. In Atlanta, when it comes to the arts, we always have a winning team on the field because of the arts.”

Metro Atlanta Chamber staff moves

The Metro Atlanta Chamber has hired its first ever chief innovation officer, Alex Gonzalez.

Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez

“We want to harness metro Atlanta’s innovation across business, technology, creative culture and more to drive continued economic growth across our region,” said Hala Moddelmog, MAC’s president and CEO. “With Alex onboard as our new chief innovation officer, we can accelerate our work to advance the region’s innovation narrative in a way that stretches across industries and disciplines. This new role will also drive a fresh approach to collaboration across departments here at MAC and engagement with partners and corporate leaders, both locally and nationally.”

Gonzalez will drive the momentum of initiatives like Backed by ATL and Innovation Connect, which work to accelerate high-growth scaling tech companies and nurture robust innovation leaders in the region.

He will draw on his experience as an author, blogger and speaker on innovation, leadership and culture as well as his 20-plus year, corporate background. Gonzalez is the host, executive producer and creator of the Disruptor Studio, a digital series that features stories of leaders and innovators, his experience in the digital and creative space.

Gonzalez also founded the Highwire Group, where he coaches and advises executives and their companies, Gonzalez is an investor and advisor to early-stage companies. Other previous leadership roles include positions in marketing, operations and Six Sigma at GE and as a senior executive at Equifax where he held a variety of roles including division president and head of strategy and innovation.

Deisha Barnett

Deisha Barnett

The Metro Atlanta Chamber also is promoting Deisha Barnett to chief brand and communications officer. In this expanded role, Barnett will align MAC’s marketing and communications efforts under a strategic “house of brands” approach designed to strengthen metro Atlanta’s reputation. She will oversee ChooseATL, the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s movement targeting next generation talent.

During her tenure at MAC, Barnett has launched a new visual identity, a revamped approach to social media and an enhanced internal communications program.

“Since joining MAC, Deisha has infused fresh energy, strategy, creativity and analytics into our brand communications efforts,” Moddelmog said. “Her leadership has produced dynamic cross-collaboration both within MAC and with our regional partners. I’m looking forward to what’s next as she and her team work to tell metro Atlanta’s story on a global scale.”

Barnett joined MAC in 2016 as senior vice president of marketing and communications. Before that, she spent nearly two decades leading communications for Walmart, EarthLink, Procter & Gamble and other consumer brands.

“Combining the power of ChooseATL with MAC’s broader work to promote metro Atlanta will allow us to take greater advantage of our marketing and communications assets and drive deeper impact,” Barnett said. “With Super Bowl LIII around the corner and the momentum we’re experiencing in economic development, talent attraction and creative culture, now is the right time to take our efforts to the next level. We have a strong team in place and I’m excited to lead the work ahead.”

Kate Atwood will continue to lead strategies and day-to-day execution for ChooseATL, reporting to Barnett. Atwood also will drive MAC’s growing focus on positioning metro Atlanta as a hub for video content and creatives, including the recently launched digital streaming network –THEA. That network now has more than 40- channels, one million views across all videos and 7,500 hours of content watched.

Georgia Lions Lighthouse

The Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, a provider of low-cost hearing and vision services for Georgia’s uninsured and low-income population, has launched a new brand logo and visual identity that drops “Lions” from its name. The organization will now be known as “The Lighthouse.”


New logo for the Lighthouse

The brand of the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, founded in 1949 by members of three Georgia Lions Clubs, has remained mostly unchanged for nearly 70 years.

Changing technologies and audiences as well as a desire to modernize, led the organization to freshen the brand.

“We’ve spent 70 years making a huge difference for Georgians in need, and yet are a relatively unknown nonprofit,” said Dave Paule, executive director of the Lighthouse. “Our current and projected growth, combined with the need for a logo that more accurately reflects who we are as an organization, confirm that this is the right move to support our present and pave the way for continued future success.”

Ron Clark Academy board

As the Ron Clark Academy began its 12th year “revolutionizing education,” it added six new individuals to its board.

The six new trustees are Jeff Anderson, president and CEO of Audio Enhancement; Matt Crisp, cofounder of eVestment Alliance; Jason Madsen, managing director of Madsen Capital Group; Shawl Pryor, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Moonbeam Capital Investments; Tonya Webster, vice president of customer experience and operations strategy for Comcast South; and Mike Wells, director of leasing for Highwoods Properties.

Meanwhile, Louis Alterman with Rackspace, who has served on the Academy’s board since 2015, has started his second year as board chair. And Ben Hill with Turner Broadcasting has begun his first year as vice chair.


Maria Saporta

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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