As goes Abilene…

September 16, 2018Doug Peters, President and CEO, Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Many years ago, on a rain-soaked fall evening in Northwest Ohio, I stepped aboard a small airplane with community leadership and traveled to Cleveland.  It was a short flight, as I recall, maybe 20 minutes. I had been invited to listen to someone I’d never heard of, and frankly I wasn’t entirely sure why I’d been included to participate in the first place.

We touched down at Cleveland Hopkins Airport with a beautiful view of Lake Erie and the downtown Cleveland skyline.  It was raining, and soon after our little plane came to a halt we were whisked away into a suburban for another short hop to their downtown. Within minutes, I was sitting in a chair at a downtown Cleveland hotel still unsure of what the evening held.

Soon after, the president of the University of Akron took the podium.  A fellow by the name of Dr. Luis M. Proenza.  Apparently, he had something that compelled a bunch of business leaders to go to a whole bunch of effort to be there.  I settled in, looked at my watch and hoped that the evening wouldn’t drag on.

That night ended up becoming one I would never forget. As a young Chamber and economic development executive, I thought I knew everything. I thought I had everything figured out. I was wrong. The message presented that night by Dr. Proenza was a game changer for me. His words that evening have impacted much of what I do every single day.

Proenza challenged me that night to rethink the word “community.”  It went something like this:

Think about a nighttime satellite image of a part of the state. Think about Abilene. That satellite image ”reveals our region as a single, luminous whole that obliterates the artificial patchwork of political, geographical and social boundaries of times past.”  Dr. Proenza went on to suggest that “regionalism is about defining strengths and opportunities from an expanded perspective that transcends traditional, but outmoded boundaries.”  In short, Abilene, Texas, isn’t defined by artificial geographic boundaries. When outsiders think of Abilene, they envision a “luminous whole” West of the metroplex.

I’ve been criticized by some because I don’t live in the city I work in.  Truth is, I chose my home based on the interests of my family as most people do.  Does that mean I’m not a member of this community? Certainly not. I live, work, breathe, eat and bleed Abilene, Texas. I shop in Abilene and pay sales tax. When people ask me where I’m from, I’m proud to tell them that I’m an Abilenian.  Folks, we cannot allow artificial geographic boundaries to define us.  We’re all in this together.  As goes Abilene, so goes Merkel.  And Clyde.  And Anson.  And Coleman.  And Buffalo Gap.  I can expand the list, but you get the picture.

So on that chilly and wet evening in Cleveland, the words of Dr. Luis Proenza resonated with me.  For a deeper dive on Dr. Proenza’s thinking, take a look here.

And when leadership from Buffalo Gap approached me months ago with an idea to help create that political subdivision’s first Chamber of Commerce, the Abilene Chamber’s board, our professional staff and I went all in.  We didn’t see it as “competition.” On the contrary, we saw it as a meaningful way of embracing the opportunity to think, act and be regional on behalf of ALL of us.

On Friday of last week, we made it official.  The Abilene Chamber, in partnership with the Buffalo Gap Economic Development Corporation has launched the Buffalo Gap Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center and we’re excited about the shared values, resources and potential.

Structurally, when you join the Buffalo Gap Chamber of Commerce, you also become a member of the Abilene Chamber and can access our large cache of resources and assets.  The Buffalo Gap Chamber is in place to work hand-in-hand with businesses, residents and visitors.

Today, in the small rural community of Buffalo Gap, Texas, we have a one-stop source of information, promotion and hospitality, all the while celebrating who we are at our core. While the Chamber will work to further position development in Buffalo Gap, we want to ensure we preserve the unique quality of their small-town life.

The Buffalo Gap Chamber is being led by a volunteer Board of Directors and many others that are eager to serve on committees. The committee structure will consist of groups working on membership, marketing and communications, events and promotion and managing volunteers.

If you are interested in participating in any of these committees or becoming a member of the Buffalo Gap Chamber of Commerce, please contact the Chamber office at 325-572-3097 or info@buffalogaptx.com.

There are memberships available for businesses, along with Community Investor Memberships for individuals that care about Buffalo Gap and the surrounding area.

Stop by our new office at 2717 FM 89, take a look around, and join us in making Buffalo Gap a better place to live and visit. The Chamber is excited to get you involved and work together to help Abilene and Buffalo Gap – and our region – thrive.

Onward!

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