No rest for the weary

March 29, 2019Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Settle in, folks. This is a long one. But, I think you’ll be glad you took the time to read it.

Have you ever experienced that certain kind of anticipation that seems to consume you? The kind of wishful hopefulness that drives almost every thought that pops into your head?

I have. And it can flat wear you out.

I’ll be the first to admit that last Thursday’s front page of the Abilene Reporter-News was one that hopefully invigorated all of us, because it was full of good stuff.

If you didn’t see it – or even if you did, here’s my take on it.

When a community and the people in a community come together to work for the greater good, great things can happen. And, even more things can happen when no one cares who gets the credit.

Last week, we all got to experience what that really means.

First, the huge breaking news was delivered that our beloved Dyess Air Force Base, and our community by extension, came out a big winner in the race to land the new B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB).

That announcement came after literally years of hard work and tremendous energy by the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC), chaired by Greg Blair (AEP) and staffed by VP Gray Bridwell and director of community partnerships, Doug Williamson.

And while that crowning achievement in the history of the storied MAC effort was the result of the effort of dozens upon dozens of people, I want to personally thank these three men and our partners in the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) for helping our community to write this next chapter in military history.

While we didn’t hit the exact target we were aiming for, we came out, in my view, far better positioned for the long-term by gaining two new B-21 training squadrons and the potential for 1,200 jobs and an investment that could reach $200 million or more.

Folks, that’s a win for all of us.

Also sharing that page was a story about this year’s record-setting Business Expo, held last Wednesday with 220 exhibitors and untold thousands of visitors (we’re still counting!).

That event could not have happened without the tremendous help of our volunteer leaders, the generous support of our sponsors, and the infectious “let’s get it done” perspective of our professional staff. If you run across Kelly and Christi Jay (TMI) or Tim Farrar (United Supermarkets), I hope you’ll extend gratitude. They. Worked. Hard. For many months. To pull off that “one single day in Abilene.”

And then there was the story, right there on that same front page, which spoke to the tremendous public-private partnership (“P3”) that defines our organization and our great city.

That article was about the investment made in the proposed downtown convention hotel by the Chamber’s Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF), the community’s industrial recruitment and retention arm.

Think back to the rollout of the 2016 TIP Strategy, commissioned by the DCOA and adopted as Abilene’s economic development guide.

It talks about the “what” and the “why” of bolstering our economy. And, it tells us that in order to win the industry recruitment battle, we must focus first on available workforce. That plan also suggests methods we should use to attract people to live here, work here, shop here and be a part of our economy.

And because the people who make up the AIF understand the intent of the TIP Strategy’s recommendations of helping to build a better Abilene for all of us, they chose – unanimously – to use their own private money to help our partners at the City to land this tremendous amenity.

And it wasn’t the first time.

Those same AIF members first invested in helping to cast a vision for what we now refer to as the Festival District. That helped us to land a developer. And a good one at that.

To date, and very recently, the AIF has funded nearly $170,000 in support of the P3 that defines us, and specifically in the downtown area. And people, tell the conspiracy theorists that these forward-thinking community champions did it for the greater good. Their way of giving back. Their return investment is spread among every man, woman and child – present and future – in our community.

So scan last Thursday’s front page when you get a chance, and tell me you aren’t proud of the men and women who give so much to this city and her business community every single day.

And you know what’s really cool? None of them – not a single soul – has stopped to take a break after that front page was published. Not only did they get back to taking risks and providing opportunity within their own businesses and organizations, but they’re also already focused on building more awesome headlines.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes Abilene special.



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