By Maria Saporta
The Task Force for Global Health, now on a side street in downtown Decatur, has bought a signature building on W. Ponce de Leon Avenue from DeKalb County for $12 million..
The purchase of the building in downtown Decatyre, which closed Thursday, was made possible by a recent $10 million grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and a $2 million gift from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.
The Task Force is launching a $24 million capital campaign to help with the renovation off the six-story building. It hopes to make its goal raising between $10 million to $12 million by the end of 2017.
Dave Ross, president and CEO of the Task Force, said the building will likely become a hub for global health initiatives in the Atlanta region.
“We are a growing organization, and we have outgrown our current space,” said Ross, who expects the number of employees to increase from 100 to 125 in the next year. “Atlanta needs to be understood in the world as a center of global health. We have a collection of assets that are really unique in the world. It’s a power house.”
The Task Force’s new building, when fully renovated, will have 90,000 square feet and will be capacity for about 375 employees.
“Our new headquarters will give us the means to increase the impact of our existing programs, launch new programs, and recruit the best talent in global health,” Ross said. “The building will also help fuel our region’s economic development and raise metro Atlanta’s profile as a global health center.”
Among the local institutions he named were Emory University, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, the Morehouse School of Medicine, the University of Georgia, CARE, the Carter Center – all anchored by the presence of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Task Force also is a founding member of the Georgia Global Health Alliance, a consortium of organizations working to foster collaboration among global health entities in the state in order to address complex issues such as Zika virus.
The Task Force envisions developing a new collaborative center for global health at its new headquarters, where other global health nonprofits may co-locate and work with The Task Force. DeKalb County and the Task Force will share the six-story building for a period up to five years. The Task Force will initially occupy three floors, and DeKalb County will lease back three floors.
Larry Johnson, who serves as the chair of DeKalb County Commission, was excited about how the sale of the building to the Task Force would stimulate the county’s economy.
“Their growth means hundreds of new high paying jobs and increased international visibility for the county,” Johnson said. “I’m also excited about developing a new partnership to address health disparities in DeKalb County.”
The Task Force’s new headquarters is expected to help raise metro Atlanta’s visibility as a center for global health, which is a new focus of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. One of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s 2017 strategic pillars will be to grow the global health sector.
The Task Force consists of programs to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases, increase access to vaccines, and strengthen health systems. The organization plays a major convening role in bringing together partners to work collaboratively on health problems in 154 countries. Locally, the Task Force is exploring how it might help address high chronic disease rates in parts of DeKalb County.
“The Task Force for Global Health is helping address some of the world’s greatest health needs,” said Robert W. Woodruff Foundation President Russ Hardin. “They work in partnership with hundreds of organizations to leverage resources and expertise for an extraordinary collective impact. We are proud that one of the world’s largest and most effective nonprofits calls Decatur home.”
The Task Force receives significant in-kind contributions from pharmaceutical companies for disease control and elimination programs. In 2016 alone, Pfizer, Merck, and GSK donated $3.2 billion worth of medicines, which makes The Task Force one of the largest nonprofits in the United States.
Much of The Task Force’s growth in recent years has been due to increases in funding from CDC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization expects to move into its new headquarters by fall 2017.
The Task Force has credited it success by the fact that it has stayed behind the scenes, often working collaboratively with multiple organizations and letting others get the spotlight.
“One element of our success as a convener is that we’ve been fairly silent,” Ross said. “The award of the Hilton humanitarian prize in September has made us visible to a much larger universe of people.”