There was a time when the first director of the new Georgia Tourism Foundation of the Georgia Department of Economic Development never imagined leaving Manhattan. “I was born and bred in New York,” says Leslie Breland ’77. “I used to say that the East River flows through my veins!”
Breland was reluctant to move to Atlanta more than 25 years ago to serve as a division sales manager for Avon Products—“It was a three-year position meant to prepare me for a national position in New York”—but she fell in love with the city. “There’s just such a mix of urban sophistication and green-grass friendliness here,” says Breland, who worked as the director of marketing at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau for several years, followed by similar positions with the World of Coca-Cola, a 45,000-square-foot museum, and Stone Mountain Park, Georgia’s most visited attraction.
Tourism is the second-largest economic generator in the state. “I really want to be able to help some of the smaller tourism entities,” says Breland, “such as small museums and attractions outside Atlanta that will get support producing their brochures or Web sites through our grants program.” Georgia has also inspired Breland to cultivate a passion for gardening. Her yard, which includes more than 200 rose bushes and 75 hydrangeas, two ponds, two pergolas and a gazebo, was featured in the HGTV program A Gardener’s Diary in 1998. “If I had stayed in New York,” says Breland, “I probably would have had a million pots on the terrace.”