Column: Mayor Reed will retain elite business group

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 11, 2009

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, the top-caliber business advisory group established by Mayor Shirley Franklin, is being kept intact by Mayor-elect Kasim Reed.

“I think they have been an invaluable resource during the last five to six years,” Reed said in an interview. “I plan to keep every member currently serving on ACP. I want them by my side.”

Jim Wells, chairman of ACP and CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc., said that during the campaign, Reed let him know that he would look forward to working with the business advisory group if he were elected mayor.

“It was a personal letter saying he understood how the Atlanta Committee for Progress had been helpful to the city,” Wells said.

ACP held its quarterly meeting Dec. 7, and Reed attended accompanied by City Council President Lisa Borders, someone with close business ties who came in third in the mayor’s race and endorsed Reed during the runoff campaign.

When ACP was first established, Franklin used it to launch major initiatives for the city — the Atlanta Beltline, Peachtree Corridor improvements, Brand Atlanta, reform of Atlanta’s public schools, and acquiring the collection of Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers, to name a few.

But as the economy began to sour, ACP became much more engaged in the city’s financial crisis rather than in launching major aspirational projects.

The ACP reviewed its top priorities by focusing on what it calls the “burning fires” issues.

Those include:

* Recruiting and retaining talented officials to serve city government;
* Maintaining and strengthening the city’s ethical standards;
* Fixing the city’s Finance Department, including the pension crisis;
* Improving public safety;
* Fixing the city’s business model to find new sources of revenue;
* Promoting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s health and development; and
* Ensuring a clean water supply.

Reed endorsed those priorities.

“Nuts and bolts is what matters right now,” Reed said. “The city of Atlanta, due to the national and global economy, has to get through very challenging times,” Reed said. “It would be irresponsible not to have that focus right now.”

Reed asked the business leaders to help him address the city’s pension fund liability by recommending experts in their organizations who can serve on a task force that would start working on Jan. 4, the day of his inauguration. The city’s pension fund liability has increased from $38 million to $130 million.

“We don’t have 100 days,” Reed said. “I’m going to ask for a recommended course of action in the 45-day time frame.”

Bono salutes Gayle.

When Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, received the 2009 Ethics Advocate Award on Dec. 8 at the Carter Center, she also got a special surprise — a videotaped tribute from one of the biggest rock stars in the world — Bono.

Georgia State University’s Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business had tried to get Bono to tape the message when U2 played at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 6. But that didn’t work out. Then, on the day before Gayle was to receive the award, the center received Bono’s video.

“There’s a dangerous woman on the loose, a dangerously smart woman,” Bono said of Gayle. “Some people cause a ripple. She causes a wave. We need many more Helene Gayles. We need many more rabble-rousers like Helene.”

Bono went on to say how his One Campaign to help improve conditions in Africa has worked closely with Gayle and CARE, and at one point, he seemed to be fighting tears when talking about his friendship with that “dangerous woman.”

Gayle has focused on the nexus of public health and poverty around the world. Gayle said it’s not just about teaching a person how to fish but revolutionizing the fishing industry by empowering people to find “income-generating skills.” Gayle said “we have a responsibility to make life far more rewarding” for those suffering from poverty by offering hope and vision for the future. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Belk and Ballet

The Atlanta Ballet is celebrating the fact that Belk has extended its title sponsorship of “The Nutcracker” for another two years. The partnership, which began in 2008, now will continue through 2011.

Dave Penrod, Belk’s Southern division executive, plans to make the announcement at the 2009 opening night performance of “The Nutcracker” at The Fox Theatre Dec. 11.

Belk is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta is its largest market, with 20 stores. Belk recently relocated its Southern division office to Atlanta to reflect its growing commitment to the market.

While Belk wouldn’t reveal the value of the sponsorship, it is thought to be worth at least $100,000 a year.


Moddelmog returns.

Hala Moddelmog is back in Atlanta.

Moddelmog recently returned to her home in Atlanta after serving three years as president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Dallas.

Moddelmog, a breast cancer survivor, said her heart (and her husband) had stayed in Atlanta, and that she is delighted to be back in town.

According to the Komen, the organization experienced significant growth and expansion during Moddelmog’s tenure. She helped establish the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Scientific Advisory Board, to help in its annual investment in research.

“Hala deserves tremendous praise for the work she has done in elevating the organization and the cause, especially the strengthening of our affiliate grass-roots efforts — the backbone of Susan G. Komen for the Cure,” Alexine Clement Jackson, chair of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s board, said in a statement.

Before joining Komen, Moddelmog was president of Church’s Chicken from 1995 to 2004.

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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