Fast Company Features Westside Works: A Mission Beyond Food


Fast Company recently featured Westside Works, a workforce development center created as part of Falcons team owner Arthur M. Blank’s “efforts to ensure the impoverished Westside neighborhood, which flanks the stadium, gets some benefit from the new arena.”

Westside Works developed their culinary academy in partnership with Levy Restaurants, the stadium’s concessionaire company, and the academy is now housed inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Levy hires about 10% of its graduates, while others go on to work at about a dozen partner companies throughout the city, including the Honeysuckle Gelato, hospitality management company Legacy Ventures, the Ford Fry Restaurant Group, Georgia State University, Twin Smoker’s BBQ, and the Sheraton Atlanta. That network is important, because it allows candidates to match their strengths, financial needs, and availability to the right operator.”

Fast Company notes the program provides workforce training and job placement in close proximity to the Westside neighborhood. “The effort stems from the Blank Foundation’s own community outreach efforts, in which it asked as many residents and local leaders as possible what might be the most helpful way to improve their lives. ‘We heard repeatedly that the number one priority was jobs,’ says Frank Fernandez, the foundation’s vice president of community development.” The Blank Foundation estimates that the program has sent $12 million in wages back into the local economy, and the program’s culinary instructor Juliet Peters says of the program, “It’s not just an altruistic thing, this works… The recipe is right and peoples live ares changing.”