Amy Phuong, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena vice president of government relations (Courtesy team)

Amy Phuong on loan to new group as chief operating officer

The vice president of government relations for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena will be an executive on loan for the balance of the year to a regional organization formed to help combat a growing eviction crisis in and around the Georgia capital.

Amy Phuong’s salary will be paid by the Hawks as she serves as chief operating officer of Saving Our Atlanta Region’s Residents.

In her role with SOARR, the native Atlantan, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgia Tech, will help bring together public and private resources to keep families from being forced from their homes amid pandemic-fueled economic disruption.

It’s the latest example of the Hawks taking an active role in the Atlanta community. The team opened the doors of State Farm Arena for early voting during primary runoff elections in July and August, the general presidential election in November and Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoffs. Phuong was pivotal in making the arena the first professional sports venue for early voting in the nation, an idea of Hawks and State Farm Arena CEO Steve Koonin.

Koonin, who has spoken out against police brutality and those who remain silent about it, successfully pitched the idea to Fulton County leadership of using State Farm as a polling place after witnessing protests in Atlanta following the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer in Minneapolis. The team has also been involved in opening pop-up grocery stores that have delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to thousands of needy residents.

With SOARR, whose planning group includes property owners, service providers and philanthropic organizations, Phuong will help with operations in providing financial relief to renters facing the prospect of eviction.

The initiative is headed up by CEO and Executive Director John Berry, who retired in September after 14 years as CEO of the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul Georgia. Dave Moody, CEO of Atlanta’s Moody Construction, serves as chair of SOARR’s board, which so far has 18 other confirmed members.

“The group actually reached out. They were doing an executive search and felt they needed a combination of leaders to help in a variety of industries,” Phuong said of the initiative, which she noted is not a nonprofit charitable organization but an immediate solution to a growing crisis. 

“The Hawks were extremely supportive of lending me out as an executive on loan (and) saw it as a way to continue to do the good work that we are doing in the community,” she said. “At the start of the pandemic our CEO (Koonin) was really bold and visionary and kind of made an open call (to find) different ways of helping the community. I’m really appreciative of Steve Koonin (and team owner) Tony Ressler’s vision.”

The initiative has a 10-county footprint encompassing Atlanta and the surrounding area and will be working with existing organizations in providing financial relief to those facing eviction, Phuong said.

Phuong, who worked in city government before joining the Hawks two years ago, said she will work to apply an efficient private-sector model to the initiative.

“It’s been an honor to be approached by a group of civic leaders in the Atlanta community and to hopefully be helpful in executing a lot of ideas that have surfaced over the last couple of months,” she said.