Chamber plans to succeed

July 30, 2018

Last week was a big one for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. On Tuesday, after months of preparation, the Chamber’s Board gathered together with grassroots community members in what is believed to be a precedent-setting exercise.

Led by Chairman-elect Seaton Higginbotham (Arrow Ford), the Chamber-convened discussion focused on three objectives:

1. The introduction of the Collective Impact approach to resolving complex community challenges;

2. Understanding and thinking about Abilene’s brand image;

3. An update for the Board, Executive Committee, newly-elected member representatives and community members on the progress made in our pursuit of the Chamber’s three-year strategic plan, Advantage Abilene.

Collective Impact, born from Harvard University, is a relatively new concept in Abilene, but one that has been employed in many successful communities in America for some time now. In short, Collective Impact is a process of aligning the priorities, bringing resources and measuring results of those community organizations, associations, government, churches, neighborhood groups and others who touch the symptoms of a community’s greatest challenges.

With a focus on poverty, jobs and economic development, the discussion was led by Jeff Cohen of the Seattle office of FSG. FSG is the nation’s leading authority on the Collective Impact approach.

When you get a minute, do a quick search of the term Collective Impact. I think you’ll be as enamored with what that process can do for Abilene as the dozens of business, government and grassroots community leaders were on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for more information about the outcomes of that discussion.

With regard to our community’s brand image, participants were asked to name what immediately comes to mind when the names of Abilene’s peer cities (and economic development competitors) were mentioned. As Abilene’s chief cheerleader, the Chamber is vested in how the world perceives us. We want to put the shine on our City, and be recognized for all that we are.

Led by our own Erica Pangburn, the Chamber’s director of community engagement, we also talked about the words that can be best used to define our own great city. There was a lot of uniform answers to that question – friendly, Storybook Capital – things we all hear frequently. But I heard one idea that really resonated in my mind – we’re a city of makers.

As an education hub, we make people bright.  Through economic development and job creation, Abilene makes folks successful. With an increasing number of creative types, we make things. And with a population determined by grit and tenacity, people make businesses and opportunity come to life. You get the point.

Think about that term “make” for awhile. I bet Abilene can have some real fun with it.

If you were to talk with any of those who participated in Tuesday’s planning event, I believe most all who engaged will tell you it was time well-spent.

And if you are one of those nearly 100 leaders who joined us on Tuesday, please accept my humble gratitude for sharing your morning, your brain power and your passion for our great City.

Lastly, I’m pleased to let you know that thanks to hundreds dedicated volunteers, tremendous leadership and a trained professional staff, your Chamber has made great progress against our Advantage Abilene strategy. As we enter into the third and final year of the plan, we’ll continue to pursue this aggressive course which aligns both with our members’ priorities as well as the community’s economic development strategy, developed by Austin-based TIP Strategies back in early 2016.

I hope you’ll join us on September 20 for our annual meeting and membership celebration, featuring Texas’s own Asleep at the Wheel. There, we’ll celebrate our work, our successes, and the people who help make great things happen for all of us.

Abilene, Texas and your 110-year old Chamber of Commerce are better because of people like you.




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