New president at Georgia Public Policy Foundation; Michael Thurmond talks jobs

By Maria Saporta

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has a new president.

Rogers Wade, who has been president of the conservative think-tank for 16 years, announced today that he is becoming chairman of the policy foundation’s board of trustees.

The new president of the foundation is Kelly McCutchen, who has been serving as its executive vice president. McCutchen has been with the foundation since 1993. The organization was founded in 1991.

Wade, 68, said he will relish just being chairman of the organization. “I can go and suggest things and not have to carry through on them,” Wade said.

Wade made the announcement at the foundation’s Commerce Club luncheon today before a speech given by Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond.

In his talk, Thurmond first presented the dire statistics: 15 million Americans officially unemployed; 500,000 Georgians officially unemployed; eight million job losses in the country; and more than 300,000 people receiving unemployment insurance in the state of Georgia. The ratio of job seekers to job openings is now six-to-one, the highest it has ever been.

Of the people who have lost their jobs, three out of every four have been male, so Thurmond said they are “recoining” this recession as the “hecession.”

One of the most vulnerable population groups has been white males, who have been employed in some of the hardest-hit industries such as construction and manufacturing.

Thurmond said that one of the challenges is that unemployed workers much be willing to be retrained for new skills, something they can do at Georgia’s technical colleges through HOPE grants. But white males tend to resist retraining more than other demographic groups, he said.

In his talk, Thurmond made a bi-partisan appeal by saying unemployment was not a Republican or Democratic problem but an American one. He spoke of a united Georgia that’s not separated by north and south, or by rich and poor, or by political parties.

“If we can continue to pray together and work together, we can build one Georgia, one America — one that offers liberty and justice and jobs for all,” Thurmond said.

In the question and answer period, Thurmond said that he would have preferred that federal stimulus dollars to have been more targeted to job creation, especially jobs in the private sector, a statement which prompted an enthusiastic applause.

Then Thurmond spoke of the need to revamp existing job programs.

“In this budget climate, the reality is that there will be very few new programs and initiatives,” Thurmond said. “We must take many of these 20th Century programs and retrofit them to the 21st Century.”

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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