By Maria Saporta
In a ground-breaking move, the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s executive committee voted Thursday morning to name Hala Moddelmog as its next president.
Moddelmog, a long time executive in both the for-profit and non-profit sector, is the first woman to run the organization in its 154-year history.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber, which represents more than 4,000 company members employing nearly one million workers in the region, is among the most influential business organizations in the state. Its impact over the years has been far greater than most traditional metro chambers.
Moddelmog, who will take office on Jan. 6, 2014, is succeeding Sam Williams, who has been leading the Chamber for 17 years. Williams announced his retirement in June, which will go into effect at the end of the year.
“I’m thrilled, and I’m honored,” Moddelmog said in an interview. “It’s a privilege to be one of the head ambassadors for the city and state.”
Moddelmog, who grew up in the town of Hartwell, Ga., has extensive experience leading successful, high performance organizations.
From 2010 to 2013, she served as president of Arby’s Restaurant Group, where she led the divestiture from public company to private ownership in a deal valued at more than $400 million.
From 2006 to 2009, Moddelmog, a breast cancer survivor, led Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the global grassroots network working to eradicate breast cancer, as president and chief executive officer. Although the non-profit is based in Dallas, Moddelmog kept her home in Atlanta.
According to a release issued Thursday morning by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Moddelmog also was the first woman in corporate America to lead an international QSR brand (quick service restaurant) in 1995 when she was named president of Church’s Chicken, at the time a division of Atlanta- based AFC Enterprises. She subsequently led Church’s to record sales and profit performance.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber established a search committee in the summer, and it hired consultant Joe Goodwin to help with the search. Paul Bowers, the 2013 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber who is also the president and CEO of Georgia Power, chaired the search committee.
Nearly 300 names were submitted, and Goodwin interviewed nearly 70 people. Eight finalists were interviewed by the search committee over the last couple of months.
“There is an abundance of leadership talent in the Atlanta region,” Bowers said in a statement. “However, Hala’s 33 years of leadership in the for- and non-profit sectors along with proven track records in marketing and brand management, fundraising and development and leading operations in franchise networks make her the ideal choice. Moreover, her passion for Atlanta and her collaborative spirit make her uniquely qualified to build on past success to move the Metro Atlanta Chamber forward.”
Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines and chair of the MAC board for 2014, said: “Hala is an experienced business executive and a proven leader. As a Georgia native, she not only understands the region and the state, but her experience on both national and international stages will serve to continue positioning metro Atlanta in the global arena.”
Williams also was pleased with the selection.
“Hala is an excellent choice to lead MAC into the future,” Williams said in the Chamber release. “She understands the critical nature of our work and has been a job creator her entire career. Even more important, Hala has a passion for our region has been an advocate on many issues critical to our success. I look forward to working with her during the transition.”
Moddelmog has served on multiple boards: public, private, advisory and non-profit, including director of AMERIGROUP Corp. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Georgia Southern University.
Moddelmog earned a M.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Georgia and a B.A. in English from Georgia Southern University. She has attended executive education programs at Harvard University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and has received the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD) certification.