'Closer Look' guests gather at Bankhead Coffee to discuss workforce development on Atlanta’s Westside

Kat Taylor, the owner of Bankhead Coffee, stands in front of the coffee shop’s storefront. (LaShawn Hudson/ WABE)

Kat Taylor moved to Grove Park on Atlanta’s Westside about five years ago. She says the historically Black community was amazing, but the community had been left unloved for a very long time. She often found herself having to travel outside of her neighborhood for a good cup of coffee.

While working remotely for her government job during the pandemic, Taylor got the idea to launch her own coffee brand, HOT COFFEE. She said the pandemic was part of her drive to start the business.

“In my former positions and jobs, I traveled all across the world, and I tried coffee everywhere,” said Taylor, the owner of Bankhead Coffee. “I was like, Atlanta needs this type of coffee, this type of gourmet coffee, in this type of community.”

In November of 2022, Bankhead Coffee opened its doors to patrons. The coffee shop that’s nestled on the Westside along the Bankhead corridor is surrounded by new development and mixed-used spaces.

“When a community is growing, we need to make sure it’s growing equitably,“ said Taylor. “That’s critically important.”

Bankhead and Grove Park area are now on the cusp of gentrification, and the new community gathering spot, which was formerly a mechanic shop, is not only a place for coffee.

Taylor says it provides jobs to people who live in the community and serves as an access point for resources, hosting a variety of events, including school board debates, storytime for children, and self-defense courses.

“We really wanted our coffeeshop to be a place where we can activate what the community really needs,” said Taylor during the September installment of “Coffee Conversations.”  

Show host Rose Scott also talked with panelists about the ongoing challenges of bringing high-paying jobs to communities like Atlanta’s Westside.

Charles Lee, the executive director of That’s My Child, talked about his organization’s mission of mentoring and employing youth.

“We try to break generational poverty by putting teenagers to work by the age of 14 years old,” explained Lee. “A lot of time, they just don’t get it. They don’t know their social security numbers. They don’t know what a reference is.”

Scott then held a roundtable discussion with Atlanta City Councilmember Byron D. Amos, who represents District 3; Keith Parker, the president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia; Quasandria ‘Q’ Turner the director of Westside Works; and Samuel Fair, the senior director of Workforce Development for the Urban League of Greater Atlanta.

Each guest talked about the importance of building a robust workforce and what their individual organizations are doing to help Atlanta residents gain stable employment and equitable opportunities.

During the conversation, Councilmember Amos also talked about the impact of Microsoft pausing its plan to develop a 90-acre campus, therefore pausing on its plan to create thousands of new jobs in the area.