Is There an App for That?
Seems like there’s a smartphone app for just about everything. I have apps on my phone that tell me which way the wind is blowing, one to start or lock my vehicle, I can give myself a cardiogram on the fly and I even have an app that can lull me to sleep at night.
But you know, I don’t have an app that builds a better Abilene.
You’ve heard me say that in my view, “Abilene won’t be good enough for any of us until she’s good enough for all of us.” Building a great community is work that never ends. No one person or organization can do it by themselves. There are a lot of moving parts, and it literally takes all of us to make our great city all she can be.
The Chamber has a finite role to pay in building a better Abilene. We take care of the interests of business. And when I say “we,” I mean hundreds upon hundreds of people like you and me who absolutely love this city.
The Chamber’s mission keeps us centered. Every day (and many nights), these dedicated and talented people come together under the auspices of the Chamber to develop and promote the economy and quality of life in the Abilene area. The last time I counted (2016), we noted 2,401 people who invested more than 65,000 hours and well-over 100,000 air miles to help advance our city and the businesses who operate here.
But when they come together, what exactly is it that they do? I’m glad you asked.
The Chamber is a very thoughtful organization, and although we do many things, we know we can’t be all things to all people. That’s why it’s important that we keep centered around our mission statement and laser-focused on the interests of our members. Our partners – like the City of Abilene, the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) and so many others – realized a long time ago that leveraging the brain trust, muscle and other resources of the private sector is a good way to move the mountains that stand in our way of even more greatness.
And although we’re member-centric, these partnerships provide for a broad array of services that help to move the needle of our economy and help to create that Abilene we all aspire to become.
Let’s take the Chamber’s new Abilene Downtown Initiative for example. The Downtown Initiative continues to work toward positioning the central business district as an ideal place for investment. As the downtown hotel project becomes a reality, more and more businesses and developers will look at the district for new projects. Having the right market studies and planning documents on hand takes away some of the uncertainty investors face and increases the likelihood of development deals closing.
Working closely with the City of Abilene, Downtown ABI helps developers identify potential sources of funds to offset the unique costs of converting historic buildings to 21st century uses. A series of workshops aimed at encouraging adaptive reuse of historic properties is being planned for the spring.
In the new year, the office also hopes to move beyond mediating real estate development deals and into placemaking activities. Beautification projects that exemplify the community’s vision of a vibrant downtown are in development.
One of our mainstays is the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB). The ACVB, which by all accounts is one of the best-performing destination marketing organization’s anywhere, works each day to develop and implement marketing campaigns and programs to promote the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Complex, Taylor County Expo Center and downtown hotel.
Immediate goals include increasing room night bookings by 5 percent by identifying events and soliciting new business to utilize Abilene’s tourism assets, and I have no doubt that the ACVB’s professional staff and volunteers will crush that goal. Another goal that we could use your help with is to better tell the tourism story and its importance to the local economy. Tourism matters, and it’s a massive contributor to our local area in many ways that extend even beyond economic impact.
Lastly, consider the work of the Chamber’s industrial recruiting arm, the Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF), which has established three main priorities. The first of which is to secure new investment in both Five Points Business Park and Access Business Park that generates significant capital investment and job creation.
The second is to increase the participation in NEXTUniversity student enrollment to address Abilene’s ongoing workforce needs.
The third is to lead BE in Abilene into a successful second year as a premier solution to support innovation through entrepreneurship.
But job one is – and always will be – working smart to retain and grow the jobs and investment made by hundreds of employers in our community and to help them achieve the levels of growth and prosperity which they aspire to.
And folks remember – we don’t do any of these things by ourselves. We partner. We collaborate. We support. And we cheer. But at the end of the day, economic and community development is everyone’s job. Each of us have a role to play, and for those who engage in the work of the Chamber, we’re extremely grateful for you.
The Chamber is a broad and deep organization, founded 110 years ago by people whose names you likely know. The movers and shakers. And over a century later, we’re still at it and someday, the names at work today will take their places in history just like those who served before us.