The Abilene Renaissance
For me it’s all about engagement. It’s about taking the long-term approach to our community’s needs. It’s about looking for the root causes to problems; not simply addressing specific symptoms. It’s about bringing people together for a just cause. It’s about making a collective impact. That’s why when asked to serve as the chairman for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce I said “yes.”
For the Abilene Chamber, it all starts with jobs. Sure it’s about workers for our members so they can grow and give back, but more importantly it’s about jobs for our citizens so they can live a better life. It’s not about a downtown hotel, Dyess Air Force Base, our great universities, Texas State Technical College (TSTC), Cisco College or our school districts. It’s not about the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) or the Taylor County Expo Center. It’s not about our churches or our neighborhoods, or even about our desire for a community wide Collective Impact approach to work together to solve big social issues. No, it’s not about any one of these things. It’s about all of them.
It’s about creating a sense of place that provides an environment where all our citizens can prosper and enjoy life to its fullest. No one part is any more important than the other. However, when put together as one we create a culture.
At the Abilene Chamber we work on all of these fronts and more. Our leadership recognizes that we live in an age of acceleration driven by a new kind of leader. We see it every day in our Abilene Young Professional (AYP) organization. For these leaders it’s all about the experience and a commitment to a “just cause.” In 2016, the DCOA announced a new “way forward.” One that did not follow the old economic development beliefs that incentives were the only path to prosperity, but one that looked at a changing world as seen through the eyes of our future leaders. If we are to survive in this age of acceleration we must come together, adapt and embrace change. If you were at the April 25th City Council meeting where Council unanimously voted to pass the downtown hotel Master Development Agreement, you heard from two of those young leaders and their excitement for Abilene’s new vision of growth.
Addressing the hotel specifically, it’s not about the jobs it creates, although we will see approximately 150 direct jobs, it’s about the synergy. Investing in the heart of our city will create a vibrant quality of life that will touch not only our citizens, but all the visitors the hotel will generate. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch Christmas shows. I always marveled at all the people walking up and down the streets and the sense of community that one small act creates. I’m starting to have that same feeling when I’m in our downtown. There seems to be a new electric “buzz” to the area. I see a cooperative effort in our downtown, one focused on housing, business and entertainment. I believe the hotel will catapult us even further, helping us to create a great place to “Live, Work and Play” in the heart of our City. When you couple that with the new Career Technical Education High School, the B-21 Raider bomber and the possibility of a collective impact approach to growth, you can see why I believe we are living in the Abilene “Renaissance.”
As a Chamber we take pride in our commitment to all of Abilene because it’s not just about the business world, it’s about our government world, academic world, nonprofit world, faith-based world, and neighborhoods all working together. We know that only by creating a culture of cooperation can we achieve greatness and we pledge to you that we will continue to work for all of Abilene. Like a good friend of mine always says “Abilene will never be good enough for any of us until it’s good enough for all of us.”
Proud to be an Abilenian.
Abilene Chamber of Commerce Chairman