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Inclusion creates growth, says Atlanta prime-time player

 

“Exclusion rarely expands opportunities, but inclusion creates an environment in which everyone feels as if they have a stake in a city’s growth.” “Exclusion rarely expands opportunities, but inclusion creates an environment in which everyone feels as if they have a stake in a city’s growth.”

 
Eugene J. Duffy, former deputy chief administrative officer for the city of Atlanta, said requiring minority participation in professional contracts, helped open doors to African-American business. (Photo by Isaac Singleton)

So said Eugene J. Duffy, former deputy chief administrative officer for the city of Atlanta during a visit to Memphis last Friday (Sept. 9).

Elected officials, government representatives and entrepreneurs were among those who filled the seats at this month’s Regional MBE Power Breakfast, hosted by Universal Commercial Real Estate at the University Club. They came to hear Duffy, who served under mayors Maynard H. Jackson Jr. and Andrew Young, talk about “The Atlanta Model.”

While there were critics – particularly in the Atlanta media – Duffy said there was a successful push to demand that doors were opened to African-American businesses by requiring minority participation in professional contracts. That move was an element in a progressive blueprint that transformed the culture of city government, spurred the growth of the black middle class, as well as raised the profile of Atlanta globally through the expansion of the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport and hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Duffy has had a primetime view of Atlanta’s growth for three decades. He harked back to former mayor Jackson’s outspoken style and persuasive approach with the downtown business community, connecting those traits to a changeover that led to African Americans finally being hired as executives across the local corporate landscape, as well as sharing in the wealth of a growing city through municipal contracts.

Jackson, he said, demonstrated dedication and commitment to minority and women participation in municipal contracts, which helped establish a tradition for black and female entrepreneurship.

During introductions, Darrell Cobbins, CEO of Universal Commercial Real Estate, explained his intention for inviting Duffy, saying it was to gain insight, and to learn how Atlanta became successful in its approach of including minorities in business opportunities.

Duffy keynoted the fourth monthly Universal Commercial Regional MBE Power Breakfast, which is crafted to foster the growth of minority-owned businesses by building relationships, sharing information and encouraging business-to-business commerce between minority business owners and their advocates.

“Mr. Duffy’s comments were very encouraging. I left with the attitude of our city being on the precipice of greatness. We are at the cross roads of becoming a world-class city such as Atlanta,” said Donnell Cobbins, vice president of Universal Commercial Real Estate.

“However, our fate lies in our leadership’s ability to see past the business practices of the past, not just to encourage but to demand a seat at the table for minority businesses. I hope that after this election cycle our business and political leadership will come together to demand collaboration on future business deals in Memphis.”

(For more information about the next Universal Commercial Real Estate Regional MBE Power Breakfast, call 901-414-3315, ext. 2.)

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