By Special to the Daily World
Mayor Kasim Reed delivered his annual State of the City business breakfast address to more than 900 business and community leaders on Tuesday, Feb. 22, declaring that the city “is emerging from recession.”
Reed also received a $1 million gift from The Coca-Cola Company for the city’s “Centers of Hope” and announced the launch of a “Hire One” campaign to put Atlantans back to work.
This year’s breakfast was co-hosted by Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, and Phil Kent, CEO of Turner Broadcasting and chairman of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
In his introduction of Reed, Coke’s Kent announced the $1 million gift for the city to match Reed’s vision for transforming the city’s 33 recreation centers into “Centers of Hope” where young people can strengthen their academic skills, engage in robust physical fitness and sports activities, and develop positive character traits and values.
“Coca-Cola’s generosity will ensure that our recreation centers have the funding they need to remain open and make a difference in the lives of our young people,” Reed said. “With this gift, we will begin the process of turning our recreation centers into Centers of Hope.”
Reed continued: “I promised Atlantans that I would do more than be tough on crime. We also must be smart on crime. I believe that by giving young people opportunities today, we can help prevent them from making bad decisions that lead to a life of crime tomorrow.”
In announcing the gift, Kent said, “For a century and a quarter, Coca-Cola has literally grown up right alongside our city of Atlanta. We’ve shared the triumphs, we’ve faced the challenges. We’ve worked together to create a better future as only best friends can do. There’s no question we are a better company today because of our enduring partnership.”
Kent added: “This year, our 125th anniversary, we’re going to support an initiative closer to home, an initiative important to our mayor and all of us who live here in Atlanta…the Centers of Hope.”
The $1 million gift from Coca-Cola will be used to fund pilot programs at two recreation center sites, enabling Reed and other city leaders to better determine the type of programming, activities and metrics that will best fit into the after-school model envisioned for the Centers of Hope.
Phil Kent, Breakfast co-chair, welcomed the guests by declaring that Reed has had “an amazing first year of accomplishments.”
“He’s off to a fantastic start,” said Turner’s Kent, who also chairs the Atlanta Committee for Progress. “He’s bonded so well with the business community.”
Reed also unveiled a new citywide initiative to put unemployed residents back to work. Hire One Atlanta, a public-private partnership between the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and several local businesses will challenge businesses to hire at least one new employee in Atlanta. The Atlanta Business Chronicle will spotlight job openings and companies who have hired Atlanta talent in a special ad section.
“Hire One Atlanta is a campaign that encourages every business in the city to hire at least one new employee,” Mayor Reed said. “If each company makes a commitment to participate, the Hire One initiative will put approximately 100,000 unemployed people back to work.”
It’s time that we deal with the positive aspects of re-employment, as opposed to always talking about the negative,” said Ed Baker, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “There are many companies in-town that are hiring workers.”
During the speech at the downtown Hilton, Reed also reported that the City of Atlanta hired 259 new police officers during 2010, and that the police academy is currently training 120 recruits.
The mayor also announced the recent award of the S.A.F.E.R. federal funds from the Department of Homeland Security and F.E.M.A. to the City of Atlanta’s Fire Rescue Department. The nearly $10 million award will be used to hire 75 new firefighters.
Reed reaffirmed his commitment to fiscally responsible government. In 2010, the city overwhelmingly passed a $559 million budget without a property tax increase that included money for more new police officers and $3.7 million to open recreation centers that were closed during the economic downturn. The mayor’s administration began with $7 million in reserves, but by managing the budget and curbing spending, the city’s reserves have grown to more than $56 million.
Reed also highlighted several milestones of his first year in office that are critical to the long-term success of the city, including a recent $47.6 million Tiger II grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and efforts to reform the city’s current pension and retirement plans to ensure long-term sustainability.
He praised the Atlanta City Council for its work on behalf of the city and said “people elect you to win for them.” He added, “I want to win for you and bring honor to the office.
“Big dreams have always driven this town, and they always will — big dreams backed by hard work, devotion and vision,” Reed said.
“In Atlanta, we are turning the corner and that’s why I tell you today that the state of our city, its government and the spirit of its people are resurgent.”