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Welcome home Coca-Cola; but come closer for annual meet

By Maria Saporta

After years of holding most of its annual meeting in Wilmington, Del., the Coca-Cola Co. has moved its gathering for shareholders to metro Atlanta for the last two year.

It’s wonderful to have the Coca-Cola annual meeting in our town.

After all, the soft drink company’s roots run deep in our city. The secret formula was born here. The drink was first sold in Atlanta. And Coca-Cola has had its operating headquarters in Atlanta from the beginning.

At Wednesday morning’s annual meeting, Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent acknowledged the importance of the Atlanta region for the company — saying that many of its shareholders are Georgians.

The meeting was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Gwinnett Center on Sugarloaf Parkway for the second consecutive year.

“We are happy to be back in this beautiful Gwinnett Center,” Kent told shareholders. By meeting in Gwinnett County, Kent said the company was highlighting the “dynamic nature of our region,” and how it now has become a metropolis with about 5.5 million residents.

In his opening remarks, Kent also made two key points. One, the Coca-Cola Co. has a vision for how it will be in 2020 — “a roadmap of winning together to create the most efficient business system.”

The second key point was how Coca-Cola was working to be as sustainable as possible. Kent was especially proud of Coca-Cola being in the top 10 percent of companies in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

My question to Kent is this. How sustainable is it to hold the Coca-Cola annual meeting in Gwinnett County, where public transportation is hardly an option?

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the Coca-Cola Co.’s decision to hold its annual meetings in the Atlanta region.

But wouldn’t it be more consistent with the company’s sustainability profile to hold its annual meeting in the heart of Atlanta?

Holding the annual meeting in downtown would give shareholders the option to take MARTA to the meeting; it would be close to the company’s international headquarters; it would be steps away from where Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most recognizable brands, was first invented and first sold; and a place near the World of Coke attraction.

Plus a central location would be most convenient for people who are traveling to Atlanta to attend the meeting from out of town and for residents who live throughout the region. It also would be a far more sustainable location because people wouldn’t have to drive to get to a meeting that’s 45 minutes north of the zero milepost.

Coca-Cola has held its annual meeting in downtown Atlanta at least twice — at the Georgia World Congress Center, one of the largest convention centers in the country.

Plus, by holding the annual meeting in downtown, Kent also would be sending a message that the Coca-Cola Co. believes in the heart of Atlanta by contributing to a vibrant and prosperous city.

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.



  1. Jeannie April 22, 2010 8:16 am

    Maria – great point, and I love the idea of keeping as much business in the city center as possible. Another obvious option is to have a regional transportation plan that incorporates the entire region providing for MARTA to reach key areas of our region – like Gwinnett. A significant amount of business is happening outside the city center. It’s crazy that we don’t have viable mass transit to these areas. I’d love to spend more time in other parts of the Atlanta region – if only I didn’t have to drive my car so far.Report

  2. Yr1215 April 22, 2010 8:25 am

    Maria, while I agree with your sentiments, the answer is because downtown’s panhandling and other factors still make it a disgrace. It has come a long ways. But it still has problems.

    A location that is easy to access and find is probably necessary for the annual meeting. I guess the Gwinnett Center fits that bill for them. Maybe things will change if Reed can clean up downtown.Report

  3. Yr1215 April 22, 2010 8:26 am

    By the way, fantastic news on the transportation front. Maybe MARTA will go to Gwinnett in 5 or 10 years….Report

  4. Sorry, Maria. I thought that you said “Welcome Home Cocaine!”. I thought that you had started to lose it or something and that that title was one hell of a hook for a blog subject, my mistake. BTW, back in the very early 20th Century (before World War I), cocaine was THE key ingredient in Coca-Cola before they found out that the long-term effects of cocaine were “not-so-good”, to it modestly, but that’s another blog.

    Anyways, about Coca-Cola, yeah sure they could hold their meetings Downtown, but like Yr1215 pointed out, Downtown, while it has a come a long way and has positive future, still has alot of issues, especially when it comes to panhandling. On the bright side, at least Coca-Cola brought their meetings back to the Atlanta area and when Downtown works through their problems a little more and becomes not just a somewhat attractive place, but an irresistable place to do business for them then they’ll probably move their meetings back into the heart of the city.Report


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