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Story Archive > New class brings new chance to create impact - Atlanta Business Chronicle

New class brings new chance to create impact

   By Martin Fleischmann — Atlanta Business Chronicle

This year, as in the five previous, Atlanta Business Chronicle has picked an impressive and worthy set of Atlanta’s top young achievers. Members of this diverse and energetic group may believe the reward for their accomplishments is limited to a nice profile in this section and sleek trophy at the gala awards, but they have also earned more. They now gain entry into an expanding network of the dynamic doers that preceded them.

For some background: The first two years of this award there was no awards dinner, so the first class did not have a chance to interact. This was true in November 2005 for the second class as well, until winner Dan Erling decided to invite the then-new winners to a cocktail party he sponsored himself.

About a dozen members from that class of 2005-2006 attended and hit it off, and the positive energy in the room even among these few was palpable. In one defining moment as we formally went around the room toward the end, a vision became clear to me that together as a group we could create a larger impact outside of our own individual spheres. When I expressed this idea everyone readily agreed, and after some discussion we decided to start organizing.

A few of us spent the next six months reaching out, first to members of our class, then to Ed Baker, publisher of the Chronicle, who gave his quick and enthusiastic support, and finally to the first class as well. This culminated in a landmark meeting in May 2006 where 25 members of the first two classes met at the Chronicle offices to officially endorse and form the group.

Our goal was for the next generation of Atlanta’s business and community leaders to more fully link together, exercise their collective voice, and develop tighter bonds along the way. At this meeting we also agreed on three main planks of activity, which I had loosely based on the themes of past, present and future:

1. Past — Learn from the longtime leaders and builders of Atlanta. An April 2007 lunch meeting/talk graciously hosted by Arthur Blank at his foundation headquarters kicked this off.

2. Present — Dig into current issues facing Atlanta and Georgia with today’s leaders, look for solutions and at least give them our views. Our first event here was a mid-2007 lunch meeting on transportation issues with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and a panel of top leaders.

3. Future — Help mentor, train and accelerate the next generation of leaders. We spent our first year working with Junior Achievement; then the last two years have established a strong, interactive partnership with the 21st Century Leaders Group.

The alumni group has gained more traction as new members swell our ranks. About 80 percent of each year’s winners respond enthusiastically that they want to be part of the group, and more than half actively try to attend events. Since this is a busy group of people, we focus on only a few meaningful events each year.

This past year we have had several notable events and successes. First, soon after the fifth class entered in early December 2008, the Atlanta Spirit hosted us in their business box. Before a Hawks game, co-owner Rutherford Seydel talked about how the Spirit operates, the resurgence of the Hawks, and their impact on Atlanta.

On March 20 we hosted a lunch with Michael Granoff, a founder of electric-car grid company Project Better Place, who explained their innovative business model. Afterward we heard comments from, and held a Q&A with, John Oxendine, state Insurance Commissioner and candidate for governor.

Our growing partnership with the 21st Century Leaders Group has led to several great initiatives. After serving as mentors and panelists for their Winter and Spring Leadership retreats, last year we helped Executive Director Bob Watson establish, pick and present the 20 Under 20 Awards. It was a hit, and we held the second annual awards on Sept. 24 — what these young doers have achieved was very inspiring!

Just as exciting, this past year our strong 21st CLG committee — led by Sarah O’Brien, Justin Honaman and Monique Dearth Honaman, these last two created a whole new type of synergy when they first met as presenters at the 20 Under 20 awards last year — created the Goizueta G5! Summit. This program allows 50 kids the opportunity to spend a full week at Emory’s Business School in July, each day taking courses run by 40 Under 40 members. It was a tremendous success and will become an annual program.

So now we invite the sixth class to join in and help us build this new Atlanta network into a strong force for positive change.


This year Atlanta Business Chronicle received nearly 400 individual nominations for the Up and Comers class — more than have ever come in for the awards event. The editorial team, with the assistance of the alumni group, helped narrow down the stellar choices to the 40 under 40 rising stars you will see profiled in this special section.

Last Updated 4 Year(s) ago



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