Turner Broadcasting’s Phil Kent to chair Atlanta Committee for Progress

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 5, 2010

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, the highly influential group of business leaders engaged with the city of Atlanta, has named a new chairman.

Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., was elected to lead the group at its March 1 meeting.

He takes over from James M. Wells III, chairman and CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc., who has been leading the group since December 2008, when he took over from Neville Isdell, then chairman of The Coca-Cola Co.

“My predecessors have set a high bar, and I’m eager to help our new mayor make our city be a great city to live and work,” Kent said after the meeting when he was elected chairman.

The other leaders of the group have included A.D. “Pete” Correll, retired CEO of Georgia-Pacific Corp., the founding chairman serving from 2003 to 2006; and Phil Humann, then-CEO of SunTrust who served as ACP’s chairman for a year before turning it over to Wells.

Mayor Kasim Reed has basically kept the ACP exactly the same as Mayor Shirley Franklin, who established the group to help her launch major initiatives such as the Atlanta Beltline, the Peachtree Corridor and the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

But the focus of the business group has shifted as the city government’s budget issues have become more pronounced.

Wells and Reed said the city’s pension crisis is now agenda items one, two and three with public safety as No. 4.

“I think the mayor’s agenda is exactly right,” said Wells, who is serving on the mayor’s pension task force and will continue serving on ACP’s board.

Reed said that the city is spending $144 million in pensions each year compared with $153 million on public safety. That situation can’t continue, Reed said.

“Atlanta’s greatness really depends on what we are able to do with pensions,” Reed said.

The ACP also has reviewed its priorities, which includes helping the city attract top talent for key positions, improving public safety, and continuing the growth of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to John Ahmann, owner of a public affairs firm who is serving as ACP’s executive director. The ACP board also voted on March to renew its contract with Ahmann.

Wells said the business group’s transition from the Franklin administration to the Reed administration has been a smooth one.

“I think the committee is quite important and will continue to be quite active,” Wells said.

Kent agreed.

“Regardless of how people voted in the mayor’s race, this committee is 100 percent in support of Kasim Reed,” Kent said. “We commend him heartily on how he’s conducted the first two months of his administration. I’m going to be focusing my efforts on helping the mayor with his whole agenda and being a voice for the business community.”
High-powered members

In addition to Kasim Reed, Phil Kent and James Wells, the members of the Atlanta Committee for Progress are:

Claire Lewis Arnold,

CEO of Leapfrog Services Inc. (ACP treasurer);

Richard Anderson,
CEO of Delta AirLines Inc.;

Mark Becker, president of
Georgia State University;

Frank Blake, CEO
of The Home Depot Inc.;

Arthur Blank,
owner of the Atlanta Falcons;

William Clement,
CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Group;

Scott Davis,
CEO of United Parcel Service Inc.;

John Fox,
CEO of Emory Healthcare;

Robert Franklin, president of Morehouse College;

Mike Garrett, president
of Georgia Power Co.;

Larry Gellerstedt III,
CEO of Cousins Properties Inc.;

James Hannan,
CEO of Georgia-Pacific;

Darryl Harmon, Southeast regional president of Wells Fargo;

Jimmy Hayes,
CEO of Cox Enterprises Inc.;

Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Co.;

Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation;

Bud Peterson,
president of Georgia Tech;

John Portman,
chairman of Portman Holdings LLC;

John Rice, vice chairman
of General Electric Co. ;

Herman Russell,
chairman of H.J. Russell & Co.;

Sylvia Russell,
president of AT&T Georgia

Rick Smith, CEO of Equifax Inc.;

John Somerhalder II,
CEO of AGL Resources Inc.;

Geri Thomas, Bank of America — Georgia president;

Beverly Tatum,
president of Spelman College;

Ray Weeks, chairman of Weeks Robinson Properties;

James Young,
CEO of Citizens Trust Bank

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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