As an Atlanta native with more than 20 years with The Coca-Cola Company, I’ve always been proud of our company’s deep roots in my hometown. Our story dates back to 1886 when Dr. John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, mixed up the very first Coca-Cola, initially served at Jacobs Pharmacy.
Today, Coca-Cola is the world’s largest beverage company, serving 1.9 billion drinks a day in more than 200 countries. In the United States alone, we sell 800 different beverages, including 250 with no and low sugar.
Despite this tremendous growth and change over the years, one constant on our journey has been our Atlanta headquarters. Georgia has been and continues to be a great place to call home.
Our investments in Georgia are substantial and continue to expand. In addition to our North Avenue home office and the World of Coca-Cola downtown, we have 38 facilities across the state, from Valdosta to Augusta to Big Canoe.
The Coca-Cola system including our bottling partners employs 11,200 people in Georgia with an annual payroll of $1 billion. Some 229,000 customers statewide serve Coca-Cola or one of our many other brands, which include Gold Peak tea, smartwater, POWERADE and Fairlife milk. If you factor all of the money beverage companies invest in the state, the industry’s annual economic impact is $13 billion.
With recent changes in our bottling system, Coca-Cola is sharpening its focus on local markets, and that is certainly the case in our home state. In 2017, we completed a decade-long process of consolidating and then reselling our company-owned bottling operations (until recently known as Coca-Cola Refreshments). In this process of refranchising, as we call it, we shifted some bottling territories and returned our entire local business to where it really belongs and where it does best: to 68 independently-owned franchise partner bottlers.
Under this new structure, the entire state of Georgia is now served by Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED. A long-time institution of the Southeastern United States, Coca-Cola UNITED serves communities stretching from Northwest Florida to Alabama to Louisiana.
Given their confidence in the future of Georgia, Coca-Cola UNITED is deeply committed to serving customers and people in the state. In addition to the 2,000 associates who joined UNITED through the acquisition of territories in Georgia, the company in 2017 added approximately 200 new jobs, an increase of 10%. The company also invested $22.5 million on fleet, facilities and production improvements. UNITED plans another $100 million in local capital investments in Georgia during the next few years.
Along with our bottling partners, we believe our business is only as strong as the communities we serve. We also believe that businesses and nonprofits should work together to tackle society’s many pressing challenges and help the weak and vulnerable.
With that principle in mind, Coca-Cola has a long history of giving back to communities — not just in our home state but everywhere Coca-Cola is served. Since its inception in 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation has given back more than $820 million to enhance the sustainability of local communities worldwide.
Here in Georgia, The Coca-Cola Foundation contributed more than $16 million to community organizations in 2016. These organizations support education, workforce empowerment, the environment and disaster relief.
As an example, the Coca-Cola Foundation in 2017 gave a $1 million grant to the @Promise Youth Center to reduce juvenile delinquency on Atlanta’s Westside. Another $1 million grant was given to the Hollis Innovation Academy in an effort to turnaround the underperforming school and failing test scores.
These donations along with our ongoing investments throughout Georgia make our home state an even better place to do business. While we’re proud of our long history as a Georgia company, we’re even more excited about our prospects for growth — in the next 131 years and beyond.
This testimonial originally appeared in Georgia Ports Authority’s publication, “Georgia: #1 State in the Nation to do Business.” The book stands as a testament to the business-friendly environment in the Peach State, which has become a global destination for companies in a wide range of industries.