Column: Tad Hutcheson will strengthen Delta’s civic role

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 16, 2011

When Delta Air Lines Inc. recently hired Tad Hutcheson to be its new vice president of community affairs, it sent a welcome message to Atlanta and its key markets — the airline is strengthening its civic commitment.

Hutcheson recently resigned as vice president of marketing and sales of AirTran Airways, where he had been for nearly 15 years and become the discount carrier’s key person in Atlanta.

In his role at AirTran, Hutcheson became immersed in countless civic endeavors and generously invested in the community both with cash and tickets.

But when Southwest Airlines announced its acquisition of AirTran, a disconcerting local question was what would happen to Hutcheson and the relationships that had established over the years.

What was known was that all of Southwest’s officers are based in Dallas and that Hutcheson did not want to leave Atlanta.

“I’m very fortunate,” Hutcheson said. “I got to stay in Atlanta. I got to stay in the industry. And I got to join the hometown airline celebrating its 70th anniversary.”

The move also indicates that Delta sees an opening to enhance its community message right when Southwest, which is not likely to be as generous in the community as AirTran, begins serving Atlanta in February. It also gives Hutcheson a chance to rejoin an airline (he worked at Delta until 1996) that he has been competing against for 14 years.

“I have always had a healthy respect for Delta, and I think Delta is well-positioned going into 2012,” Hutcheson said, refraining from mentioning Southwest. “This is a real exciting time to be at Delta Air Lines.”

Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president of marketing, said the Atlanta-based airline has “never wavered” in its community support, but its financial commitment has “ebbed and flowed” as the airline has gone through bankruptcy, a hostile takeover attempt and other economic challenges.

“Tad’s arrival brings more firepower and more bandwidth to help us live up to what we want to be as a company,” Mapes said, adding that Hutcheson has demonstrated a strong level of commitment to a “broad range of organizations” in the community. “The reaction in Atlanta and at Delta has been extremely welcome.”

Hutcheson currently serves on the boards of the Atlanta Business League, the Atlanta Police Foundation, the Atlanta Sports Council, Junior Achievement of Georgia, Leadership Atlanta, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Central Atlanta Progress, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber. He also is a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

But in his new role, Hutcheson will be focused on community affairs in all of Delta’s key markets in the United States and abroad.

“I want to help build the Delta brand, not only in Atlanta but in all the communities we serve,” Hutcheson said. “The single most important asset that I bring is that I’m just not a community affairs person. I will look at it from a marketing lens and a public relations lens. If you have all the departments working together to strengthen the brand, it will do wonders — not only in Atlanta but in all markets.”

A legacy of trees

The legacy of Trees Atlanta founder Marcia Bansley continues. Bansley, who retired earlier this year, served Trees Atlanta for 26 years.

After she retired, Trees Atlanta launched the $2 million Marcia Bansley Green Legacy Campaign this past summer. Already, the campaign, which is expected to finish in the spring, has nearly met its goal.

The Kendeda Fund alone gave a $1 million grant to the campaign, and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation recently gave a $500,000 gift.

“Fundraising efforts are going well and we anticipate reaching, and perhaps exceeding, this goal,” Bethany Clark, Trees Atlanta’s communications and office manager, wrote in an e-mail.

Arby’s shares its strength

The Arby’s Foundation has doubled its $1 million pledge that it made to Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign during the fourth quarter of this year.

One cent from every Arby’s Kids Meal sale goes to help fund the foundation.
Atlanta-based Arby’s multiyear partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, an effort that hopes to eliminate childhood hunger in America by 2015.

Arby’s, which has 3,500 restaurants, is giving all its fundraising dollars to No Kid Hungry, expected to total more than $2 million with an initial foundation gift of $300,000.

Georgia recently joined the campaign, officially becoming a No Kid Hungry state in November. More than 700,000 children in Georgia struggle with hunger, the sixth-worst ranking in the United States.

“The generosity of the Arby’s customers and employees is inspiring,” said Kate Atwood, executive director of the Arby’s Foundation. “It’s clear that they care about helping to end childhood hunger in America. This pressing matter relies on all of our commitments to ensure no child in America goes hungry.”

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.

2 replies
  1. 11 says:

    Maria – forgive me, but this peice reads like it was authored by Delta’s PR staff. What kind of journalism is this statement “Southwest, which is not likely to be as generous in the community as AirTran” without any facts or followup statements to support your opinion? Perhaps you might want to reference your own article from last month before making such assertions:

    http://saportareport.com/blog/2011/11/column-southwest-airlines-steps-up-support-for-grady-hospital/.Report

    Reply
  2. mariasaporta says:

    Thanks for being a careful reader. The stories are not mutually exclusive. Southwest will honor the existing pledges that AirTran has made (which are coming to a close). When those pledges have played out, Southwest likely will approach the Atlanta market as it does its other markets. And even Southwest would say they likely will not be able to match AirTran’s community giving efforts in Atlanta. But this is one case where I hope I’m wrong….Report

    Reply

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