The 100 Most Influential Georgians [M-R]
Georgia Ports Authority
Marchand has guided the ports authority through years of steady growth, and that trend is expected to continue with major port improvements under way through summer 2006. Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 275,000 jobs in the state, contributing $10.8 billion in income, $35.4 billion in revenue and $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.
The life and times of Bernie Marcus already was a big fish story. Now it’s a whale shark story, punctuated with a big, wet exclamation mark.
Born to Russian immigrants, raised during the Depression in a Newark, N.J., tenement, Marcus grew up to become rich and famous after creating Home Depot with Arthur Blank. Now retired, Marcus is in the business of giving his money away as an unbridled philanthropist, championing many causes over the years.
In 1990 he founded the Marcus Institute, where children can be treated for a variety of neurological disorders and developmental delays. He and his wife, Billi, are major supporters of the Shepherd Spinal Center. But it’s the big fish tank in downtown Atlanta that will undoubtedly etch his name into the short list of the city’s mega-philanthropists.
Marcus, who put up $200 million of his own money, is the force behind the Georgia Aquarium, a 545,000-square-foot attraction that opened in November. With 8 million gallons of water and more than 100,000 animals on display, it’s the largest aquarium in the world and the only one in the United States featuring whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet.
Marcus has called it payback for his business success in Georgia and with 2 million anticipated yearly visitors, he thinks it will inspire a wave of economic development in the city’s center. “It will bring a new dimension to the downtown area and draw other commerce,” he says. “Between apartments, restaurants and other downtown attractions, the aquarium can help rejuvenate and have a dramatic impact on the downtown economy. People who used to leave town over the weekend will stay.” – PR
NorthEast Atlanta Beltline Group, LLC
Mason bought 4.5 miles of abandoned railroad bed for $25 million in 2004 and became a driving force behind the Beltline. He has big plans for his portion of the proposed 22-mile circuit, including two condo towers on the edge of Piedmont Park. The Beltline is expected to drive about $20 billion in new development.
Georgia Military Affairs Committee
Mattingly doesn’t understand the concept of retirement. In the past two years, the former U.S. Senator and Assistant Secretary of Defense for NATO has co-chaired Georgia’s Military Affairs Committee and helped lead the G-8 Host Committee. In 2005 he was elected Chairman of the Board of the Georgia Ports Authority.
Charles H. “Pete” McTier
Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
As president of four foundations – the Woodruff, Joseph B. Whitehead, Lettie Pate Evans and Lettie Pate Whitehead – McTier is in the gift-giving business, granting millions to support education, health care, arts and culture, the environment, human services and civic affairs. The Woodruff Foundation, with assets of more than $2 billion, granted $104,139,757 in 2004.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Running a major metropolitan daily newspaper today involves much more than the printed publication found on newsstands every morning.
To serve this generation of readers, Mellot says, newspapers must have a multi-pronged strategy for getting their product in front of their audience.
“We’re more than just a newspaper,” he says of the 7,400-employee Journal-Constitution, which counts just over 380,000 weekday and 615,000 Sunday subscribers. “We’re a multi-platform media company, with products in print and online.” With a range of online properties, those products have helped the newspaper capture the largest total audience of any media company in the Southeast.
Before being named publisher in April 2004, Mellot spent 16 years in a variety of roles with parent company Cox Enterprises, serving first as the newspaper’s controller and later as the company’s treasurer. It was his time as Cox’s vice president of development and strategic planning, however, that impressed upon him the need to think about the newspaper’s future and to develop products to meet the public’s changing appetites for news.
By every measure, the company is succeeding. Its suite of online products – including AJC.com, AJCCars.com, AJCJobs.com, AJCHomes.com and others – boasts the highest penetration rate of any local online news Web site in the country, visited by no less than a third of the local audience online.
“The newspaper business is evolving,” he says. “The success by which we measure ourselves is changing. We now look at our total audience of print and online products to create a different definition of mass online journalism.” – TJ
William S. “Billy” Morris III
Morris Communications Corp.
Morris is founder and leader of a multimedia empire with 10 separate divisions and holdings that include 27 daily newspapers, 14 non-dailies, 19 free community papers, 35 radio stations, about 50 magazines, two book publishing and distribution houses, outdoor advertising and online services in 33 states, Europe and Asia.
Hands on Network
Nunn is a facilitator of good deeds, a master in the art of civic engagement as manager of an international network of civic action centers. The organization has recently embarked on its most ambitious mission: mobilizing 6.4 million volunteers over the next two years for community projects with a high impact on children, education, health, wellness and the environment.
Cobb County Board of Commissioners
Chairman, Atlanta Regional Commission
Olens moved into the regional spotlight – and oftentimes hot seat – last year when he was named chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission. To keep the group moving ahead on trying to meet regional challenges takes all of his well-known consensus-building skills. On the home front, Olens guided a local option sales tax to a narrow victory with Cobb voters.
Georgia State Representative
O’Neal, one of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s floor leaders, last year authored legislation that will give corporations a $1 billion tax break over 10 years. And, in an effort to put Georgia back on Hollywood’s radar screen, O’Neal, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, sponsored a bill updating the state’s tax-break policy for the entertainment industry.
Carl V. Patton
Georgia State University
Patton’s vision of a vibrant, inviting campus where students can learn, live and work has taken shape thanks to GSU’s Main Street Master Plan, which has helped transform Downtown Atlanta. In July GSU joined the Colonial Athletic Association, a change that gives the university greater exposure and creates a greater economic impact for Atlanta.
State of Georgia
Between what could be another contentious legislative session and running for re-election against Democrats with statewide name recognition and high favorable ratings, Governor Sonny Perdue will have a full plate in 2006.
Perdue counted significant legislative victories in 2005, including tort reform legislation, passing a land conservation plan and fast tracking transportation improvements.
Citing “the incremental task of changing the culture of state government,” Perdue is moving his administration forward. “We’re taking advantage of the enormous purchasing power of the state, and getting top dollar on e-Bay for surplus items we no longer need,” he says. “We hired the first state accounting officer in Georgia’s history, who compiles Georgia’s financial statements, ensuring we maintain our AAA bond rating. We’re beginning to reap the financial benefits of a better managed state.”
Low performance by Georgia students on the SAT remains a concern to Perdue since businesses looking to relocate to the state use average SAT scores as a benchmark to determine the value of the public school system and the reinvestment potential in the economy. “I would like to see Georgia’s SAT scores reflect the quality of education I know is being taught in classrooms across this state today,” Perdue says. Yet critics question his commitment, pointing out deep spending cuts in education over the past four years.
Nevertheless, voter demographics bear out Perdue’s confidence that Republicans will keep their hold on the executive and legislative branches of government. “We’ll maintain the majority as long as we continue to put forward mainstream, kitchen table issues to which citizens all over Georgia can relate,” he says. – PR
Georgia Republican Party
Re-elected as the state’s Republican Party chairman in 2005, Poitevint, a longtime Republican activist and strategist and a national player, faces a challenge in 2006 to build upon the GOP momentum of the past few elections. For starters, there’s the governor’s race, in which Sonny Perdue, the state’s first Republican governor in modern times, will seek re-election.
He’s officially called the Minority Leader, but DuBose Porter might be better defined as the Minority Instigator.
The state representative from Dublin, first elected in 1982, is an attorney and newspaper
editor/ owner who stands right in the middle of the fight to bring Democrats back to power in the state.
“In the last year we have taken the opportunity to define who we are,” Porter says. “We sat back and let them [Republicans] define who we are and it was incorrect. We’ve focused on the issues that are ours and issues that we always will be interested in, like education, health care and environment.
“The Republicans have run off the [university system] chancellor, they want to make cuts to HOPE Scholarship, take 35,000 children off Peach Care, and cut primary care from public health. The last year has given us the opportunity to let people know who these people really are. We are the better alternative.”
Porter, who is a native of Dublin, was Gov. Zell Miller’s floor leader and the legislator who introduced the HOPE scholarship. His mission now, it would appear, is to take on the role of safeguarding education and health care in the state.
“A more educated and healthier Georgia is good for business,” Porter says. – RG
Daniel Rahn, MD
Medical College of Georgia
Since Rahn became president in 2001 MCG has undergone a radical campus transformation, erecting new structures (a $125 million investment) and renovating existing facilities. Research funding has increased from about $44 million to almost $80 million. MCG will soon occupy its new Cancer Research Center and Health Sciences Building.
Ratcliffe, who became Southern Company’s CEO in 2004, was deeply involved as an economic development volunteer in 2005, serving as chairman of both the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Research Alliance. At the office, he runs a corporation that exceeds $37 billion in total assets, with 26,000 employees serving 4.2 million customers.
Richardson demonstrated a no-nonsense, sometimes autocratic management style in his rookie season as Speaker of the Georgia House, the first Republican in that role since Reconstruction. The hawkish Paulding County lawyer played a starring role in getting tort reform legislation passed, and began to lay a path that could lead to gubernatorial candidacy in 2010.
Atlanta Convention &
Richardson is chief emissary of Atlanta’s convention and hospitality industries, with his finger on the button of a giant neon vacancy sign implanting the message, “Why not Atlanta?” in the minds of convention planners, tourists and other would-be visitors.
Atlanta is ranked among the nation’s top five convention centers, bringing in more than $9 billion in out-of-town bucks. But Richardson’s job has become ever more challenging because of a convention-space building boom in the past decade and the resulting overabundance of space for planners.
“There is just so much competition in the market, that’s our greatest challenge,” Richardson says. “But there’s more buzz about Atlanta in the marketplace than I’ve seen in a long time, and we need to take advantage of that.”
Some of the buzz came about in the aftermath of Katrina’s wrath. New Orleans was one of Atlanta’s chief competitors for convention business, so Richardson was scrambling to find space and accommodations for what could be an influx of business travelers. For one thing, college football’s Sugar Bowl, a longtime New Orleans tradition, relocated to Atlanta. Meanwhile Richardson and the ACVB lent staff, office space, resources, even the occasional bedroom, to the New Orleans CVB.
Richardson says more buzz will come through the Brand Atlanta marketing campaign and the city’s growing number of attractions, such as the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke and expanded High Museum.
“We have a great opportunity to make Atlanta more of a vacation destination,” Richardson says. “I expect the next three to five years to be the best in the city’s history.” – JG
Central Atlanta Progress
Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood, downtown Atlanta, is flooded with new activity. The Georgia Aquarium opened to rave reviews – and long lines – and the new World of Coca-Cola is set to follow soon. Together the attractions are expected to draw about 3 million visitors and $200 million a year to the area. Robinson and CAP crafted downtown Atlanta’s bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver
48th Infantry Brigade
Rodeheaver carries considerable weight in central Georgia as regional manager of economic development for Georgia Power. It’s miniscule compared to the influence of a more critical nature he has in his other job, which requires him to place himself in harm’s way as leader of the hard-hit Georgia Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Iraq.
Joe Rogers, Jr.
Rogers’ father and a partner opened the first Waffle House in 1955. Today the Norcross-based 24-hour restaurant chain has nearly 1,500 restaurants in 25 states – and a track record of quick response to natural disasters. Rogers, a hands-on kind of manager, was in Gulfport, Miss., the day after Hurricane Katrina hit.