Habitat will move administrative offices to Atlanta - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Habitat will move administrative offices to Atlanta

April 24, 2006

Sumter County-- Housing and hope organization Habitat for Humanity International has decided to make a change. They're moving their administrative offices to Atlanta.

The organization's international headquarters has been a mainstay in South Georgia for three decades. How will this administrative move affect the Sumter County community?

Certain key individuals will be making the move to Atlanta, leaving close to 300 employees at the Americus location. Habitat says the move allows them to have the best of both worlds, continued growth along with keeping its historical tie here in South Georgia. But others feel that tie is beginning to be severed.

The city of Americus is known for it's small city feel with big history. Along with historic Victorian buildings, it's also the place where Habitat For Humanity began it's mission.

"Our mission is to eliminate poverty housing," says Habitat Senior VP of Communications Chris Clarke. That mission is carried out all over the world, changing poverty-stricken shanties like the ones displayed at Global Village into homes.

"We're trying to help people with a handup rather than a handout," says Clarke. Now, more than 200,000 homes later, the organization is spreading its wings from it's Americus location. They're placing a base of operations in Atlanta, something they say will allow them to grow.

"Along with trying to be more effective and more efficient with a location that would allow us access to transportation and a recruiting pool of employees," says Clarke.

Senior Vice President of Communications Chris Clarke says about 40 administrative employees will be moving to Atlanta within the next six months with more positions to be filled. "Over the next 12 to 18 months, we expect to have somewhere between 80 and 100 employees in Atlanta," says Clarke.

Operations will remain at the International Headquarters in Americus but some fear that any move will be detrimental to the roots the organization grew from.

"If you transplant a little shrub or a little tree, the chances of it surviving in a new place are quite good but if you transplant a full grown oak, there are good possibilities that it won't do well," says Millard Fuller.

Habitat founder and former president Millard Fuller feels the move is proof of a shift in values from a ministry to a corporate entity. "If you're thinking in terms of a ministry, Americus is where they're needed," says Fuller.

From his new world at the Fuller Center For Housing, he predicts the change is just the beginning of what will be a permanent move. "I think this is the nose under the tent and this is not going to work very well with the leaders being 140 miles away from the main workforce," says Fuller.

Habitat maintains that the International Headquarters will remain in Americus and will continue to be the largest of it's offices in the world. "We have a deep partnership with the city here in Americus, Georgia where we were founded and we have a long-term commitment to maintain a strong, strong presence here," says Clarke.

They say the move makes them a stronger Habitat so they can continue their mission from Americus to America and throughout the world.

They're also looking to consolidate other offices around the world in the future. With fewer offices, they say that's less overhead, which allows them to focus more on their mission.

They also say the economic impact will be very minimal in Americus with about 15 homes being put on the market from people who are moving. Clarke says most of those homes have been put on the market or sold.

The administrative move to Atlanta should be complete by the end of August.

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