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Muhammad Yunus wants closer ties with Atlanta — a bank and more

By Maria Saporta

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus would like to set up a Grameen Bank (which means village bank) in Atlanta.

All he needs is for someone to champion the effort to provide $6 million over four years to help create a self-sustaining bank that will offer micro-loans to the poor and give them an opportunity to go into business for themselves.

Yunus was in Atlanta Friday morning speaking to an influential group of business and civic leaders as part of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation speaker series.

In addition to the opportunity to start a Grameen Bank in Atlanta, a special campaign is underway to get Yunus to make Atlanta his second home. Yunus is from Bangladesh, where he was able to prove the success of his belief in building social businesses.

Dozens of the attendees at the breakfast had questions for Yunus, but time ran out.

“All the more reason we should do everything we can to make sure Atlanta becomes a second home,” said Penny McPhee, president of the Blank Foundation.

After his talk, Yunus was asked if he would consider making Atlanta his second home.

“Why not?” Yunus responded – certainly confirming the possibility.

Yunus already has strong ties to Atlanta. He has been drawn to the city because of its pioneering work in civil and human rights.

In 2010, he came and spoke to business students on the Georgia Tech campus.

In 2012, he met with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at City Hall to discuss the possibility of setting up a Grameen Bank in the city.

In the question-and-answer period at the breakfast, Yunus was asked about setting up a bank in Atlanta.

“Just invite us — as we did in other cities,” Yunus said, adding that there has to be a local entity willing to help provide the seed money to make that happen. “Give us $6 million for four years. Then it becomes a self-sustaining branch.”

Yunus said that Grameen already has established six branches in New York City with 10,000 borrowers.

It has two branches in Omaha, Neb. and one in Indianapolis. “Last year we started a branch in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And we have another branch started in Charlotte,” Yunus said. “It can be done anywhere. We now have experience in rich countries and poor countries.”

In addition to speaking to the Blank Foundation, Yunus will receive the Salute to Greatness Award at a dinner Saturday night put on by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change as its top annual fundraiser.

Yunus and a local colleague and friend —Mohammad Bhuiyan — also are exploring the possibility of bringing the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Summit to Atlanta in 2014 or 2015 — just in time for the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Atlanta is one of the few cities that has had two Nobel Peace Prize recipients — King and former President Jimmy Carter.

If Yunus moves to Atlanta, that would make three….

Maria Saporta

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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