COVID Relief Money, Return of Passenger Revenue Bolsters Bottom Line The MARTA Board of Directors has adopted the Authority’s Fiscal Year 2023 Operating and Capital Budgets. The $1.3 billion budget includes $587.6 million in operating funds and $717 million for capital programming. MARTA continues to show fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget for an eleventh straight year without a fare increase and on the heels of unprecedented fare revenue losses due to the pandemic. MARTA relies more heavily on sales tax revenue than some peer transit agencies, and with those revenues experiencing strong growth, combined with the last draw down from the federal COVID relief money, the Authority is well-positioned to resume pre-COVID operation levels and advance its capital improvement program. “The biggest problem facing the transit industry right now, and frankly, most industries, is a shortage of workers. We are using every hiring platform and tool at our disposal to hire and train operators as ridership recovers,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “We are aggressively recruiting employees, holding frequent job fairs, and offering signing bonuses in order to stay competitive. As people return to MARTA, we must be able to meet the service demand.” Ridership demand has increased, with rail slightly outperforming bus. Recently, climbing fuel prices have presented an opportunity to gain customers without impacting MARTA’s bottom line. A bus uses the same amount of fuel whether carrying two people or 20, and MARTA hedges a portion of its fuel costs to protect against price spikes. Electricity-powered trains and fully electric buses, the first of which were placed into service this spring, are immune. MARTA is also exploring other ways to gain ridership including a comprehensive redesign of its bus network to ensure service meets the changing demographics and development of the service area, and by launching an on-demand transit pilot program to connect those in areas underserved by transit to the larger MARTA system. MARTA’s Capital Improvement Program is advancing rapidly and includes State of Good Repair (SOGR) projects focused on improving the customer experience such as ongoing track replacement to enhance the safety of the rail system and reduce delays caused by aging equipment. The capital budget includes over $70 million for the multi-year Station Rehabilitation Program with Five Points and Bankhead slated for train platform renovation and extension respectively. Close to $40 million is budgeted for the procurement of new railcars, the interior and exterior looks of which debuted in January. The trains are the largest single capital investment ever made at MARTA at over $600 million and the first railcar is set to arrive in metro Atlanta in 2025. The Clayton County Operations and Maintenance Facility has been awarded an unprecedented $33 million in federal grants and earmarks and Clayton Southlake bus rapid transit (BRT) has advanced to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program as a Small Starts Project. In Atlanta, Summerhill BRT is moving closer to construction and decisions are being made about the mode and alignment of high-capacity transit along the Campbellton Road Corridor. “While this has been a difficult year for the MARTA family, we remain focused on our customers and taking care of the system we have today while developing an equitable, more connected transit system of the future, thoughtfully and with fiscal responsibility,” said MARTA Board Chair Rita Scott. In a continued commitment to improving customer service, MARTA is budgeting $9 million this fiscal year for the SMART Restroom Program. And to save money in the long run, the Authority bought all the parts and equipment for the program at current prices and will use them to upgrade restrooms systemwide over the next few years, making them cleaner, safer, and “smarter,” alerting station maintainers when supplies are low or the space needs attention. To view MARTA’s FY 2023 Operating and Capital Budgets in detail visit MARTA (itsmarta.com). This is sponsored content.
MARTA and the City of Brookhaven have approved the terms of an agreement for a new City Hall to be built on MARTA-owned property adjacent to Brookhaven rail station on the Gold Line in DeKalb County. “MARTA is excited to partner with Brookhaven to establish a transit-supportive City Hall, one of only a few in this country located at a rail station. This project will inspire future development around the station, increase ridership, and improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, and makes a powerful statement about the centrality of transit,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. The 1.24-acre property on Peachtree Road is currently used for long term parking which will be relocated to the eastern side of the station, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible spots will be moved closer to the rail station entrance along Peachtree. The ground lease agreement states Brookhaven will lease the almost $3 million property for 50 years before purchasing. “This is the result of a collaboration with MARTA which has been ongoing for five years,” said Mayor John Ernst. “We were all seeking a transit-friendly live-work-play solution that meets the current and future lifestyle needs of residents and our greater regional community. I am looking forward to continuing the partnership with MARTA as we create a permanent City Hall.” Brookhaven will oversee planning, financing, and construction of the building. Prior to the start of construction, MARTA will continue to accommodate long term parking at its current location. A timeline for the work is still being established. This is sponsored content.
When you look at a family, the parents of that family are often the ones who hold all the power. They hold the power to shape their children’s lives. They hold the power to raise their children to be the best versions of themselves. And they hold the power to set their children down the right path, teaching them right from wrong. While we would love to say that all families follow this picture-perfect model, sadly, that’s not always the case. For some families, parental figures are lacking, and for other families, parental figures may be nonexistent. That’s where Families First comes in. With us, we bring these individuals the family they need. Kenya is one of those individuals. She came to Families First after her mother signed over her parental rights to her. It wasn’t long before Kenya met Kim, and once she did, Kim helped give her the family support she craved. Like Kenya, many others are impacted positively by Families First. Keep reading below to find out how we help our families. Confidence Is Built Without a parental figure, confidence is lost. It’s hard to know if you are on the right track, or what steps will help get you on that path if you don’t have a parental figure. When people come to Families First, confidence is built because they now have someone holding them accountable as they work to keep them on the right track. Kim was able to do this for Kenya and it helped her regain her confidence. Communication Is Improved Just like their confidence that is lacking, many come through our doors without also being able to articulate their thoughts and feelings. For so long their feelings have been pushed aside or they have been made to feel like their feelings are not important. Our counseling helps to combat this. For Kenya, she was able to address unresolved family issues and grow stronger after she learned how to communicate through her counseling. Support Is Provided Without a parental figure, individuals have no support in their households. No matter what age someone is, they will always require a supportive familial environment that fosters growth. Families First can provide this, offering a loving and supportive family. Like so many of our clients, Kenya was able to get the support she needed through Families First. Since walking through the doors of Families First, Kenya has grown as an individual. She now has her own apartment and has her car. Kenya is the definition of resilience and has found success, but she doesn’t have to be the only one who succeeds. Others who are in a similar situation as Kenya can find the same growth that she found at Families First. This is sponsored content.
It’s official: the FIFA World Cup is coming to Atlanta. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the largest edition of the world’s most popular sporting event yet, with 48 teams vying for soccer’s biggest prize in matches hosted across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The three nations won the right to host in 2018 after a yearlong bidding process. This unprecedented scale brings more attention to the already immensely popular competition, which has traditionally been contested by 32 teams and hosted by a single nation. Twenty-two cities across the three North American host countries competed for bids to host matches, with 16 receiving the nod. The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC) led the bid effort, collaborating with state and local governments, Arthur M. Blank Sports + Entertainment, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to win the bid. “We have the pleasure of celebrating Atlanta’s selection as a host city of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, because of our strong, bipartisan public-private partnerships and many who have been working for years to put Georgia on the map since we hosted the 1996 Olympics,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “This premiere event will have a positive impact on so many hardworking Georgians. Hotels will fill with guests from around the world; restaurants will provide visitors a taste of the South they will not soon forget; attractions across Georgia will welcome those seeking to experience all the Peach State has to offer; and in each interaction, people will see Georgia’s Southern hospitality on full display. The world will be watching as we meet this moment, and we’re proud of all the entities who worked so hard to get us to this point.” “Atlanta is a soccer town, and we’re excited to bring the game’s best athletes to the world’s best city,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “Atlanta has already been home to the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and through our strong collaboration with the State and our business community, we will welcome folks from all over the world to fill every seat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2026.” Hosting World Cup matches will bring an economic boost to the city: an impact analysis by the Boston Consulting Group during the initial bid process in 2017-18 found that the 2026 World Cup is forecasted to contribute $5BN in new economic activity. Of that, $415 million alone is estimated in net economic benefit for Atlanta, which is becoming renowned for its support of soccer after the recent successes of Atlanta United in Major League Soccer. “This is an incredible opportunity for the city of Atlanta to continue to show the world what we have to offer,” said Arthur M. Blank, Owner and Chairman of The Blank Family of Businesses, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Our stadium was built to host world-class events, and we would be honored to continue that tradition in 2026 with the World Cup,” Blank continued. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Atlanta World Cup Bid Committee, especially the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and our AMBSE leadership team, for their diligent work over the past few years that has led us to today’s announcement. There is still more work to be done, and I look forward to working with our public and private partners, FIFA and our local community to bring these spectacular global games to Atlanta.” “We are thrilled to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to Atlanta,” said Dan Corso, Atlanta Sports Council president. “Combining the assets of the state’s best public organizations and private companies has been a recipe for success here in Atlanta. We truly believe our city is the country’s premier location to hold a major sporting event and look forward to working with FIFA to create a remarkable experience for all involved.” This model of public and private collaboration has been successful in the past, with the Atlanta Sports Council utilizing its partnerships across the city to put on high-profile sporting events including Super Bowl LIII, the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and multiple NCAA Men’s Final Fours. Each match Atlanta puts on is expected to generate roughly $4.6 million in global media exposure. The rounds that the city will host will be announced by FIFA at a later date. About the Atlanta Sports Council The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC), a division of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, facilitates the growth and development of sports in metro Atlanta by serving as a recruiter for major regional, national and international sports events. The organization plays an important role in improving the quality of life for residents in the region through sports, working to drive economic growth and visibility and acting as an advocate for area teams and annual sports events. For more information, visit https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/councils/atlanta-sports-council. This is sponsored content.
By Jim Durrett, President of the Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of the Buckhead CID, and Denise Starling, Executive Director of Livable Buckhead With gas prices hitting a nationwide average of $5 per gallon, people are looking for ways they can save at the pump. While much of the metro Atlanta region is still reliant on cars as the only way to get from Point A to Point B, years of investment in infrastructure and programs to support alternative transportation gives Buckhead workers and residents several options for driving less and saving more. The Buc: On-Demand Rideshare In April, Buckhead became the first major Atlanta business district to offer an on-demand, app-based rideshare service. The Buc, provided by Livable Buckhead and funded by the Buckhead Community Improvement District, provides free rides to and from Buckhead’s two MARTA train stations, and all other trips are just $3 each. The Buc is similar to popular ride-hailing services with people using a mobile app to call for a ride when they need it. The app’s intelligent algorithms match multiple passengers headed in the same direction to provide quick and efficient shared trips, without lengthy detours or inconvenient schedules. The Buc operates weekdays during the morning commute (7 to 9:30 a.m.), lunchtime (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and evening commute (3:30 to 7 p.m.) with an extra hour of evening service on Thursdays and Fridays. The service zone covers most of central Buckhead, stretching from the Buckhead Village up to Piedmont Center, and across GA 400 to the Lenox MARTA Station. The free Buc app is available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play, and the first six rides are free regardless of the pick-up and drop-off locations. Electric Vehicle Chargers Electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity, and the development of infrastructure to support them is also picking up pace. Buckhead’s commercial office properties and retail locations including Lenox Square have offered EV charging for many years, and Livable Buckhead has supported the growth of Buckhead’s charging infrastructure through its EVery Mile Campaign. As a result, Buckhead now boasts hundreds of EV chargers within a two-mile radius of the central business district. Better Sidewalks and More Trails Improving walkability has been an important goal for Buckhead as its urban core has developed into a dense, urban district. Transformative projects like the streetscape work on Peachtree Road and in the West Village make it safer and easier for people to reach destinations on foot. PATH400 reconnects portions of Buckhead that were divided by the construction of GA 400 and provides pedestrian access from Miami Circle to Lenox Square, as well as connectivity from north Buckhead neighborhoods to nearby schools. Future projects such as HUB404 will continue to enhance Buckhead’s pedestrian infrastructure. Mobility Programs Through the work of Livable Buckhead, our community has long invested in programs to support commutes that don’t rely on a single-occupant vehicle. Many companies are bringing employees back to the office for at least a few days each week, which can add up to a major expense for employees. Employers who want to help reduce those costs without sacrificing time in the office can take advantage of Livable Buckhead’s programs to support transit ridership, carpooling and other alternatives. Transit: More than Airport Travel Convenience MARTA’s two Buckhead rail stations have long been popular for people who want a convenient way to reach the airport without the hassle and expense of driving. The good news is that MARTA is also a convenient way to travel for non-airport trips and at just $2.50 for a one-way trip, it’s a bargain. Access to rail transit is a tremendous asset for Buckhead, which is why the BCID invested in the Buckhead Station pedestrian bridge. If you haven’t taken a trip on MARTA lately, now is a great time to give it a try. This is sponsored content.
Reinvestment Fund recently announced $22.6 million in financial assistance awards to 134 projects through the 2021 round of America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides one-time catalytic investments in projects that will improve access to fresh, healthy food by creating and expanding fresh food retail and food enterprises. The 2021 round is the largest since the program launched in 2018. The 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) originally made $4 million available through the program. The pool was expanded to $22.6 million by the USDA, as a result of the $155 million in additional resources for the HFFI program announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in early June under the USDA’s framework for transforming the food system. With this investment, the HFFI program will work with stakeholders toward realizing the expanded vision for the program that begins to address the complexity of food access in communities across America. “The Biden-Harris Administration and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to creating local and regional food systems that benefit all Americans, from farmers and ranchers to small businesses and families who currently have to travel a long way from home to find fresh, healthy food,” said USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “USDA is proud to partner with Reinvestment Fund to ensure that these resources reach the communities where they are needed most, so people can find nutritious food options wherever they live.” As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administers the HFFI program on behalf of USDA. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans. “The legacy of racist policies like redlining and the resulting disinvestment continue to harm communities in so many ways, including through the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “We are honored to work with the USDA to address some of these historical injustices through the HFFI program by investing in food systems assets that not only increase food access in underserved communities but improve health, strengthen local economies, grow wealth and quality jobs, and develop essential community anchors.” Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects and food enterprises seeking financial assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to operating in underserved areas. The program received 566 Letter of Interest submissions to the RFA in December 2021. Based on eligibility, 359 applicants were invited to submit full applications in January 2022, with 294 final applications received by the deadline in March 2022. Awardee projects are located 46 states, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Of the 134 grant awardees, 45% serve rural communities and 81% are owned or led by people of color, women, and/or native people. Of the awardees, 69% are grocery retail projects. Another 31% of awardees offer alternative retail models including mobile markets, CSAs or food boxes. Awardees include four projects in Georgia: Atlanta Harvest, an urban farm and retail market serving the greater Atlanta region. Located in Ellenwood, Clayton County, Atlanta Harvest plans to use its HFFI grant to support the Bring Farms Back project, to build a brick-and-mortar retail food store, and expand mobile delivery of a variety of fresh and affordable food. Clinch Memorial Hospital (CMH) is a 25-bed critical access hospital serving rural southeast Georgia. To overcome barriers to healthy eating and increase access to fresh produce in pockets of extreme poverty countywide, CMH will partner with Retaaza on an innovative model to connect residents experiencing hunger and food insecurity to local surplus produce that would otherwise be wasted. HFFI funds will help support the launch of a mobile market that will sell “just in time” staple and perishable food to underserved rural areas. UGROW, Inc is a non-profit organization that connects people to food and empowers them to live healthy lives. UGROW will build a Food Innovation Hub to increase access to fresh local food, facilitate food-centered education programs, and become a catalyst for innovative entrepreneurship opportunities for the Columbus community, especially the underserved as an expansion of UGROW’s current work. An HFFI grant will support part of the overall construction. West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative (WGFC) is a 50+ year old agricultural co-op in West Georgia that has traditionally consisted of Black farmers. WGFC members work to build opportunities through local food systems and wealth through cooperative economics. HFFI funds will help expand WGFC’s current operations through the construction of a new co-op grocery store and commercial kitchen in an underserved area of Troup County. It will also support upgrades to WGFC’s existing food hub. The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises that aimed to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program assists a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets. To learn about the HFFI program and see a full list of awardees, please visit www.investinginfood.com. This is sponsored content.
By Michael Halicki, Executive Director of Park Pride It should be no surprise that I love parks. Parks are good for people and the communities of which they’re a part. They’re foundational for the health of local wildlife and habitats, and function as critical urban infrastructure by absorbing stormwater runoff, cooling ambient temperatures, providing the open space necessary for public health, and so on. Park Pride believes that parks have the potential to make cities great—but only if they receive the investment required to activate their multitude of benefits. Which is why Park Pride and our greenspace partners don green shirts and show up in Atlanta Council Chambers during “budget season.” We’re there—year after year—to show our support for the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) and advocate for an increase in the annual budget for park maintenance and operations. Earlier this month, we did just that as DPR presented the proposed FY 2023 budget to Council (you can view the hearing its entirety here). No Time to Tap the Breaks on Progress Although Atlanta’s General Fund will increase by 3.4% in FY 2023, the proposed budget for parks and recreation reflects only a 1.6% (or $715,324) increase over last year, for a total of $44.5 million. That increase is simply not enough to sustain the advancements we’ve seen in the park system in the last year alone. Consider the following: At the end of 2021, the City of Atlanta adopted its first comprehensive master plan for parks and recreation in over a decade. Activate ATL: Recreation and Parks for All is an ambitious 10-year plan for equitably improving, growing, and transforming our parks and rec system into that which Atlantans deserve. Atlanta just shot up in The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index—which ranks the US’s 100 largest cities on how their park system meets the community’s needs—from 49th to 27th. In response to this news, Mayor Andre Dickens stated: “While I’m proud of the work we’ve done to achieve this ranking, we’re not done yet… Make room for Atlanta at the top, where we belong.” Atlanta’s park system is growing! In 2021, Westside Park (Atlanta’s largest park at 280 acres), Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve (216 acres), and other smaller parks, including Cook Park (16-acres), opened to the public. In 2022, the City announced that the recently purchased Chattahoochee Brick site (75 acres) would become a public park. Others, including new parks in the South River Gardens neighborhood and in the Riverside neighborhood (both of which received conceptual design support through Park Pride’s Park Visioning Program) are on deck. These recent and back-to-back wins for Atlanta’s parks system has built a forward momentum for progress that we’ve never seen before, and now is not the time to tap the breaks. To catalyze the visionary transformation of Atlanta’s park system as outlined in Activate ATL, to continue the upward climb in the ParkScore Index, to maintain the amazing new parks that are opening and improve those currently existing, requires a meaningful and impactful increase in the budget for the Department of Parks & Recreation. A Call to Increase the Parks Budget I firmly agree with Mayor Dickens that there is “room at the top” for Atlanta’s park system. But to get there, we must be realistic, honest, and transparent about the budgetary needs for existing park maintenance and implementing Activate ATL. It’s Park Pride’s vision that every neighborhood in Atlanta has access to a great park. As such, we encourage the City of Atlanta to adopt a meaningful increase in this year’s budget for parks and to chart a course for annual growth in DPR’s budget through the General Fund as we implement Activate ATL over the next 10 years.
Financial Literacy for All (FL4A) co-chairs, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman, and CEO John Hope Bryant and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon co-wrote an op-ed piece for TIME entitled “Financial Literacy Education Could Help Millions of Americans”. The article lays out the case for a private sector push in creating a national framework for embedding financial literacy into the fabric of our society. Research shows that only about a third of Americans have a working understanding of interest rates, mortgage rates, and financial risk according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. And this measure of financial literacy has fallen 19 percent over the past decade. The American public is in need of a massive culture shift in regard to financial education and it’s going to take all of us to steer the ship and correct course. The need is so great that we cannot afford to leave it squarely in the hands of the government and public sector to provide a solution. The private sector must get involved and many of them have through the Financial Literacy for All (FL4A) movement. Financial Literacy for All is an inclusive, business-led movement aimed at helping more Americans reap the benefits that come from making more informed financial decisions. We have collectively made a 10-year commitment to reach millions of youth and working adults, providing them with the necessary tools and life experience to become more confident in making those critical economic choices. To date, FL4A has had 30 of some of the biggest names in business sign on the movement, signifying their affirmation and belief in our mission and their willingness to lend their talents and expertise in creatively reaching our lofty, yet obtainable goal. Some of these include the National Football League, The Walt Disney Company, Delta Air Lines, and several other leading financial institutions. Recently, FL4A announced investment services giant Edward Jones as the latest company to join the movement and we’re looking forward to many more commitments in the coming weeks and months. It’s time to make financial literacy a foundational stepping stone to achieving the American Dream, and we need everyone to be involved. To learn more about Financial Literacy for All or to join the movement, visit fl4a.org. This is sponsored content.
By Paige Alexander CEO, The Carter Center This month, I was pleased to sign the Kigali Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, signifying the Carter Center’s 100% commitment to work with dozens of countries, donors, and organizational partners to tackle these terrible diseases. The declaration lays out ten actions the signatories promise to take to address diseases of the poor and neglected, covering the provision of services, financing, research, transparent monitoring, and more. Building on the London Declaration of 2012 and the 2030 World Health Organization NTD Road Map, it aims to eradicate two diseases (Guinea worm and yaws), eliminate other diseases in 100 countries, and reduce by 90% the number of people requiring interventions for NTDs. The Carter Center has been working on NTDs for over 35 years, starting with former President Jimmy Carter taking the lead in the Guinea Worm Eradication Program in 1986, when there were an estimated 3.5 million cases. In 2021, there were just 15 cases. We have also taken on river blindness, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis – diseases that are often obscure and hard to pronounce but which cause immeasurable suffering among people in less developed places. The Center has always believed in and fostered close relationships with the ministries of health in the countries where we work. We are guests invited to enhance their work, not the other way around. It’s remarkable what people can accomplish when they have the right tools and someone beside them to lend a hand. As a measure of our joint success, more than 10.4 million people in the places where we work no longer require treatment for river blindness, 12.1 million no longer need lymphatic filariasis treatment, and more than 4.9 million in Ethiopia’s Amhara region no longer need treatment for trachoma. In addition, the Center has supported over 850,000 life-altering surgeries for trachoma patients. We have assisted 20 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in achieving WHO recognition for eliminating at least one NTD. We’ve also pioneered efforts to integrate malaria, mental health, and peace-building activities to further our impact. Four decades of experience have demonstrated how working together can produce extraordinary results – the relief of human suffering and the freedom for people to grow and achieve their goals and dreams. It takes coordination, investment, and sustained effort, all of which are built into the Kigali Declaration. If every signatory truly is 100% committed and follows through, we will win the battle against NTDs. This is sponsored content.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
By United Way of Greater Atlanta As part of its Thrive by 25® commitment to investing in the well-being and success of young people ages 14 through 24, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is launching multiyear partnerships with organizations in Atlanta; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Baltimore. The three organizations lead comprehensive local efforts already underway to advance opportunities for young people to build skills and enter the workforce while developing their leadership and supporting their basic needs and relationships with family and mentors. Providing both grants and expertise, Casey will work with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, Future Focused Education, an internship and work-based learning organization in Albuquerque; and with Baltimore’s Promise, a citywide collaborative composed of public, business, higher education, nonprofit, community and philanthropic leaders. “The Foundation’s investments and technical assistance will expand capacity for these locally-driven efforts to build opportunities for large groups of youth and young adults across these communities and regions — all places where Casey has long invested with many partners and will continue to invest in the well-being of children and youth of all ages, families and communities,” said Tomi Hiers, vice president of the Foundation’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change. Baltimore, the Foundation’s hometown, and Atlanta, home to UPS, are the Foundation’s civic sites — communities where the Foundation has hometown ties and introduces innovative strategies that integrate the best programs and promising approaches for serving children and their families. New Mexico has been home to sites participating in JDAI®, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative®, Thriving Families for Safer Children and Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)™, as well as the Albuquerque Justice for Youth Community Collaborative, which brings together more than 20 Albuquerque community-based organizations in a multi-year effort to ensure all young people are healthy and thriving. United Way of Greater Atlanta: Creating Apprenticeships While Supporting Basic Needs United Way of Greater Atlanta is committed to improving well-being for Atlanta’s children and young people, especially the nearly 500,000 children and youth in Greater Atlanta who lack access to the basic opportunities and resources they need to thrive. Casey will support UWGA’s work through two main strategies: CareerReady ATL, a new effort to demonstrate and expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Greater Atlanta region that focuses on young people of color who are furthest from opportunity and ensures they have multiple pathways to economic well-being and self-sufficiency; and Grant funding and coordination with partners in the areas of academic support, pathways to careers, college planning, secure housing and basic needs Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) will further UWGA’s strategies by engaging young people, educators, employers and other partners. To learn more about Thrive by 25, click here. This is sponsored content.
By Michelle Hiskey After a semester of research and analysis, the 24 students in Goizueta Business School’s Venture Capital and Minority Entrepreneurship class announced the first three investments for the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund (PMVF). This student-run venture fund is the first of its kind to make equity investments for U.S.-based and underrepresented Black, Latinx and An integral part of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the $1 million fund recently announced its first round of capital opportunities. Funding unique ventures An award of $25,000 was granted to CommunityX, a mobile-first social app that unites like-minded change-makers around shared causes. The app leverages traditional social media algorithmic thinking to be able to connect people and calls to action, such as petitions, events, donations and more. CommunityX also has received funding from TechStars “When our team found out that we were going to be a part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund portfolio, we were very excited for all the obvious reasons,” says founder and CEO Chloë Cheyenne, who describes herself as a multiracial young woman with Chicago, Illinois, roots. “Hearing firsthand from all of the Goizueta staff, students and founders about how much thought and intention went into building this fund, we are totally humbled to be a part of this community.” Ecotone Renewables of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned a $15,000 award and is the maker of Soil Sauce, a liquid plant fertilizer organically produced from food waste. By making sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible and prevalent outside the industrial scale, Ecotone is dedicated to building the tools necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through sustainable food practices. “We produce renewable energy through the extraction of biomass, as well as an organic, sustainable fertilizer,” said Ecotone Renewables CFO Elliott Bennett. “That fertilizer is our main focus as we look to empower communities. This is part of a sustainable form of agriculture because it allows new plants to grow. And really, it gives people the ability to be sustainable in the way that they plant, whether it’s on a farm or the garden.” An award of $15,000 also went to Atlanta-based FundStory, which helps finance teams access and manage nondilutive capital. This type of capital does not require a business owner to give up equity or ownership and is often essential to launching a startup. FundStory offers all-in-one workflow management software to help finance teams evaluate risk, automate funding options and manage financing into maturity. “I’m really appreciative for the opportunity and the commitment, and we’re excited,” FundStory CEO and co-founder Bobby Gilbert says. “We like to think of it as the operating system for not a lot of capital. Entrepreneurs don’t wake up and decide they’re going to go into debt. Prior to funding through us, they have to map out a plan, choose the right partner and manage financing into maturity. We set out to build a FundStory with a thesis of helping founders for each stage of their journey.” Reflecting on key takeaways The three entrepreneurs spoke at a reception for Goizueta Business School alumni, faculty, administration, staff and the students who operated the fund as managing partners and associates. The reception was hosted by the five managing partners who operate the fund alongside teams of senior associates and analysts. “We went through a lot of debate, and at the end of the day we made the most informed decisions we could,” says Humza Mirza, an MBA graduate and the fund’s managing partner for marketing and recruiting. “Did we get the right answer? Only time will tell. We are all taking a lot of learnings from getting the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund started.” The class is part of a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) concentration for full-time MBA students, focusing on understanding factors that contribute to the gap in venture capital funding to underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and how this challenge might best be addressed. Students split into six teams, each assigned to find minority-owned startups in one sector: consumer products and goods, energy, fintech, health care technology, information technology and manufacturing. “Each of our teams worked tirelessly to make sure we have a strong pipeline going forward,” says Jack Semrau, an Evening MBA student and the fund’s managing partner for deal sourcing and portfolio management. “We worked through a very traditional process of what you see in other VC firms, to make sure that we find exceptional founders who showcased their know-how and their specific industry and product so that we could proceed to actually make an investment,” Semrau continues. “We couldn’t be happier to make the first round of investments that are part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund.” The fund grew from the work of Goizueta alumni who learned from local underrepresented entrepreneurs that access to capital was a major pain point and wanted to do something about it. But “As students, you can only do so much; you have to have a faculty or staff member that really believes in the idea,” says Goizueta alumnus Willie Sullivan. He joined the current MBA students in thanking supporters “who really believed in this and believed in our ability to make this happen.” One of those supporters is Robert Kazanjian, academic director of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “We are really good at finding interesting ways to take what might be a straight theoretical issue in the classroom and then having students experience it in a real setting,” Kazanjian says. “This is a big challenge for professional schools, how to manage that tension between theory and practice. I see this venture fund as absolutely working and think this is a great example of what Goizueta does well.” This is sponsored content.
By Rollins Center for Language & Literacy of the Atlanta Speech School Grady Memorial Hospital has redefined the standard of care for babies through a groundbreaking initiative developed and tested at Grady over the past five years called Talk With Me Baby. Devotion to the idea of “language nutrition” is at the core of Grady’s work. With that new emphasis, Grady has reformulated what it means to have a healthy delivery. To date, more than 6,700 Grady Babies’ families have benefited from this revised standard. The brain is constructed over time, beginning before birth and continuing into adulthood. For the first three years of life, that growth is exponential, with more than 1 million neural connections being formed each second. Language-centered ecosystems, through which language nutrition is seamlessly delivered, make the most of that rapid growth, when the brain is uniquely receptive. TWMB (Talk With Me Baby) strengthens those ecosystems through deeper language engagement between parent and child from the outset, with the support of every adult the family encounters in the hospital. “Talk With Me Baby isn’t just a program at Grady,” says Denise Mayhan, Director, Practice Operations for TWMB, “It is integrated into our everyday interactions with our patients and families and how we welcome every Grady Baby into the world. The foundation for early brain development and all future learning begins before a baby is even born. That makes language nutrition a critical part of a healthy delivery that our staff and families fully embrace.” Talk With Me Baby, now becoming a national initiative, focuses on early language development that aligns with early brain growth. Grady has fully integrated the principles and practices of TWMB, making them central to the entire perinatal ecosystem– from prenatal care and classes and extending through post-partum care. Because of TWMB, every family leaves the hospital knowing that they play a critical role in their baby’s brain development – and they learn how to enact that role. National experts have taken note. “I was amazed by how much TWMB has been infused into the entire Grady staff – physicians, nurses, medical support staff, receptionists, custodial staff, etc.,” says Walter Gilliam, PhD, Director, Edward Zigler Center in Child Development & Social Policy, Yale School of Medicine, who observed the ecosystem in action. “It seemed as if everyone at Grady has bought into the importance of interacting with babies from the moment of birth and supporting parents in their interactions with their newborns.” Since becoming the Talk With Me Baby flagship birthing hospital in 2017, TWMB’s practices and principles have been fully integrated in all routine perinatal care. Since then, 7500 newly hired staff have been oriented on the TWMB approach, and 1200 within Women and Infant Health Services have been trained as coaches. This system-wide approach to adoption of powerful new practices helped to serve as the blueprint for Literacy & Justice for All (LJFA), a community-wide collaboration now in its second year. The creation of this language-centered ecosystem is led by the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy with Marietta City Schools and other partners, funded by the United Way of Greater Atlanta with support from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, and coordinated by Learn4Life. Literacy & Justice for all, expanding to Atlanta in the coming year, begins with Talk With Me Baby and is part of the broader effort to reform and support early childhood education across the City of Atlanta. At his first State of the City address, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens pledged to “make Atlanta the best place in the country to raise a family.” Dickens committed to a $20 million public-private partnership in which $5 million will come from the City of Atlanta and another $5 million from the Atlanta Public Schools. Dickens has called upon the private sector to match that money with $10 million of its own. The United Way has met that call with a $4.5 million commitment. LJFA focuses on bringing language and literacy to every child to ensure they are proficient readers by the end of third grade and are on a path to deep reading. It does this by supporting the entire literacy continuum, beginning with the language nutrition commitment to every baby and family developed by Grady. The aim in Marietta is to build a community-wide literacy ecosystem that extends from WellStar Kennestone Hospital through early childcare and into all the elementary schools of Marietta City Schools. “We are very excited at WellStar to be in the development/roll-out phase of our Literacy & Justice for all initiative to ‘hard-wire’ the importance of Talk With Me Baby and reading – making it an essential and comfortable conversation at every opportunity between clinicians and parents,” says Avril Beckford, MD, Chief Pediatric Officer of the WellStar Health System. Denise Mayhem continues, “Integrated with initiatives such as Literacy and Justice 4 All, TWMB is becoming a movement that will help transform the lives of countless children and families in the Metro-Atlanta region and beyond.” And now the movement has the opportunity spread dramatically. Just this month, the Rollins Center has expanded the reach of Talk With Me Baby by releasing the Talk With Me Baby Healthcare Integration Guide on Cox Campus(coxcampus.org), their free online learning community. This release will enable any hospital, anywhere, to fully integrate TWMB as the first step in ensuring all parents are equipped to provide their children access to their best future possible. Talk With Me Baby is being independently evaluated by the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children’s Hospital Boston. Several national experts have urged its immediate adoption universally, partially because of the powerful scientific logic on which it is based. Cox Campus makes that possible. Dr. Gilliam implores, “Babies do not have time to wait, and we shouldn’t either.” For more information, contact Nadia Jones, EdD, Director of Partnerships, Rollins Center for Language & Literacy. This is sponsored content.