SunTrust gives $5M for Atlanta’s Westside revitalization effort

By Maria Saporta

The SunTrust Foundation presented the Westside Future Fund a $5 million grant Monday morning to support more affordable housing and provide entrepreneurial and small business opportunities for community residents.

SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers said the grant, the single largest gift in the foundation’s history, had been in works before the bank announced its merger with BB&T.

Ahmann Rogers Keisha

John Ahmann of the Westside Future Fund welcomes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as SunTrust’s Bill Rogers looks on (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The merger of BB&T and SunTrust, announced earlier this year, will create a new corporate identity, and the headquarters of the combined bank will be in Charlotte, N.C.

Rogers said the grant reflects the SunTrust’s commitment to the community.

“We were here. We are here. And we’ll be here,” Rogers said in a brief interview before a passing of the ceremonial $5 million check. Post-merger, Rogers said: “We will continue to not only meet but exceed what our giving is.”

Rogers was chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a high-level group of business and civic leaders who work with the Atlanta mayor on city priorities. When he was chair, ACP formed the Westside Future Fund to direct giving in the communities west of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Bill Rogers, Richard Dugas, Beverly Tatum

SunTrust’s Bill Rogers greets Richard Dugas, chair of the Westside Future Fund, and Beverly Tatum, chair-elect of the Westside Future Fund (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The grant will include $3 million for affordable housing initiatives targeted for low-income individuals and families.

“It will provide deep affordability if you are working for minimum wage at Walmart,” said John Ahmann, president and CEO of the Westside Future Fund. Because it is a philanthropic gift, Ahmann said it would create permanent affordable housing options.

The remaining $2 million would go towards economic development initiatives – especially to help small businesses and entrepreneurs provide opportunities to people in the community.

“We are working on a theory that all the other components – housing, education – are necessary, but they are not sufficient,” said Stan Little, president of the SunTrust Foundation. “The one thing that makes all of this work and be sustainable is a viable economic and small business platform with incomes that are livable and sustainable.

Westside Future Fund

SunTrust donates $5 million to the Westside Future Fund Left to right: John Ahmann, Bill Rogers, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Rogers, who said he does not know how long it will take for the combined bank to select a name, said both SunTrust and BB&T have a similar appreciation for being involved in the community.

“We are fundamental believers that if you build up your communities, you build your bank,” Rogers said. He added that the Westside Future Fund is “a successful model that we hope will be replicated across the country.”

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.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.