Mayor Kasim Reed announces pick of Craig Richard as Invest Atlanta’s CEO

By Maria Saporta

Hours after a mysterious executive session of the Invest Atlanta board, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office sent out a release Thursday afternoon naming Craig Richard as the new president and CEO of the economic development agency.

Richard, who was one of three finalists for the post, has served as CEO and president of Greater Louisville Inc., where he developed their strategic plan and coordinated 32 projects that created 3,854 jobs and $571 million in capital investment, according to the city’s release.

The other two finalists for the position were:

  • Gregory Buckley, former COO of the Gibson Guitar Corp., an entrepreneur who has more than 20 years experience forming companies and being a private equity investor; and
  • Eloisa Klementich, managing director of Invest Atlanta, who served as a special assistant for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“It’s an exciting time for the City of Atlanta, where we are experiencing dynamic growth in our construction sector as well as consistently attracting new businesses,” Reed said in a statement. “Craig J. Richard is uniquely qualified to lead Invest Atlanta as we continue to grow our economy, create jobs and retain the businesses who already call Atlanta home.”

At the regular monthly meeting of Invest Atlanta, the board went into executive session Thursday morning to discuss personnel matters– obviously to discuss the selection of a new president and CEO – from the three finalists, who had been announced nearly a month ago.

But when the mayor and the board emerged, they passed a motion giving Reed the authority to contact the new president and CEO of Invest Atlanta without naming who it was.

After the meeting adjourned, the mayor was asked who the CEO would be, and he said that they were not prepared to make an announcement.

It was a little awkward because the internal candidate, Klementich, was in attendance at the meeting.

The position has not had a permanent leader since Brian McGowan left in early 2014 to become the chief operating officer of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. McGowan, however, did chair the search committee that worked with the Atlanta-based firm of Jorgensen Consulting to come up with the three finalists, who had very distinct backgrounds. 

There was the business entrepreneur (Buckley), an economic development professional who had worked at the international, national, state and local levels (Klementich); and a more traditional economic development leader who had specialized in city and regional initiatives (Richard).

Prior to joining Greater Louisville Inc., Richard served as senior vice president of economic development and chief economic development officer at Greater Houston Partnership. Richard also served as director of economic development for the Dallas Regional Chamber, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Arlington, Texas Chamber of Commerce, and chief operating officer for Hawes Hill Calderon, a consulting firm that specializes in the establishment and administration of special purpose economic development districts.

“This was a competitive process, so I am honored to have been selected out of a group of extremely qualified candidates,” Richard said in the city’s statement. “I look forward to working with Mayor Kasim Reed and the board to bring jobs and investment to Atlanta.”

Richard received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Houston and a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Virginia Commonwealth University. Richard is also a Certified Economic Developer from the International Economic Development Council.

The city’s release did not say when Richard will begin his job at Invest Atlanta.

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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