The three men and one woman inducted Thursday as the first class of the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame had at least one thing in common aside from being local captains of their respective industries.
All believed fervently in bringing good business sense to the next generation through the Junior Achievement organization, which educates some 7,500 students in Northeast Georgia.
“Right now Junior Achievement could be no more important,” said inductee Philip Wilheit Sr., president of Wilheit Packaging. “We need young people who understand capitalism and the free enterprise system. Without it our country’s not going to continue to prosper. We can’t all work for the government, we can’t all flip hamburgers. We’ve got to have entrepreneurs continue to come through the system.”
Wilheit was inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class along with longtime Georgia Poultry Federation President Abit Massey and car dealership owner Moss Robertson and his late wife, Lindsay. All have lengthy public service resumes that nearly dwarf their professional accomplishments.
Senior Superior Court Judge John Girardeau said Robertson, a Gainesville resident since 1982, has always felt strongly about giving back to the community, what he called “paying your civic rent.”
“Over the years both he and Lindsay have paid their civic rent,” Girardeau said.
Robertson also stressed the importance of Junior Achievement in today’s economy.
“I truly believe we are at a critical crossroads in our nation’s history,” Robertson said. “It is time we step up and start educating young people to what I call the miracle: the free enterprise system. There’s no greater tool than Junior Achievement to accomplish this.”
Massey said the group helps educate students about both their professional and civic responsibilities.
“I think all of us have an obligation to make our communities and our schools and our churches and our organizations the best they can be,” Massey said. “Volunteering our time and talents is critical to the success of any project. Junior Achievement teaches the habit of involvement and success, which is something that will stay with the participants through every phase of their life.”
The event, which featured video tributes of the inductees, drew about 300 people as a fundraiser for Junior Achievement.
“Tonight is not about Philip, Abit or myself; it’s about raising awareness for Junior Achievement,” Robertson said.
“Our mission is to prepare young people for a career in the global economy.” Georgia Junior Achievement President Jack Harris said.
“We believe in the boundless potential of young people.”