Frank Fernandez, Vice President of Community Development for the Arthur M. Blank Foundation, had a lot on his mind at the Center for Civic Innovation’s Leadership Breakfast on Thursday, June 2. After balancing philosophy studies and college-level athletics at Harvard University, Fernandez has navigated multiple occupational fields from non-profits to public administration to investment banking. Fernandez shared insights from his personal career trajectory to community development work in cities across the United States, all in the light of his current community engagement work around the construction of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium
Among Fernandez’ colleagues, the pervading philosophy regarding the stadium is that, even if the construction runs on time and on budget, “if we can't get the community going, it's a failure.” Without building up the community and helping to counter poverty, developing the stadium could cause more harm than good for the Atlanta area.
It is with this understanding that Fernandez and the Blank Foundation seek to balance traditional economic development through the stadium construction while protecting existing community interests and institutions.
Fernandez heavily emphasized utilizing the networks you have. It is through our personal networks that we are able to ultimately succeed or fail. These ideals are seen prominently throughout Atlanta. One example Fernandez gave on the importance of networks was in regards to Atlanta’s Westside. Generational poverty has many root causes, but a lack of access to people and resources is a prominent factor miring the community’s chances at greater upward mobility. “When working with a network, if your network is closed and filled with others without funds, like the Westside, it is very hard to rise.”