Blue Skies and Green Lights

November 18, 2019Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

This week, the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) celebrates its 30th anniversary as the driver of economic development in Abilene and, as a community, we should all pause, reflect and celebrate. Let me break down all three of those action items and share my perspective on why they matter.

30 years is no small achievement. For a community to rally around the term “economic development”, mostly without exception, for nearly one-third of a century says something about the uniqueness of and the fortitude of Abilene, Texas. But, are you aware that Abilene has been in the business of economic development since the first settlers arrived long, long ago?

It’s true. Economic development is formalized in part by the creation of a community-based organization like the DCOA, but the actual act of attracting and leveraging capital investment and the creation of jobs is the role of all of us and always has been. While the DCOA has specific contributions to make – and now more than ever has their hands firmly on the steering wheel – the work that comes from the organization is paramount.

As our country becomes more and more competitive, it’s more and more important that we have a driver. The DCOA’s historic approach to bettering Abilene’s economy is on the verge of shifting gears, and I’m excited to be one small part of helping to read the roadmap – and serving as a member of the pit crew – who will help Abilene, Texas,  realize its potential.

Let me insert this here: I’m in Abilene, Texas, because it’s Abilene, Texas. If I wanted to live in a community like Austin, the metroplex or some other place, I’d have chosen to go there. Truth is, I’m in Abilene because I believe in Abilene. No one is interested in changing who we are, what we believe in or what’s important to West Texans. And our partners in the DCOA firmly believe the same.

Glad to get that off my chest. Now, here’s a little history as we look forward to celebrating the DCOA this week:

The Abilene business community – through the Chamber – has been investing in industry attraction and retention dating back to at least 1956, and to this day takes its role very seriously.  In the late 1980’s, it was Chamber and community leadership who led the charge in Austin to pass legislation enabling the creation of a ½ cent sales tax, knows as the Type 4A sales tax.  It’s that tax that funds the DCOA.

Still with me?

And until recently, the DCOA was a department of the City of Abilene, run by city staff.

Today, I personally view the DCOA at a tipping point. While in its history there have been wins and losses, it’s batting average has always been on the winning side. And now I believe that our economic development partnership, driven by the DCOA and its new CEO Misty Mayo is positioned with the determination and sophistication necessary to win opportunities on behalf of every Abilenian with reciprocal impact on our region.

So when I say it’s all “green lights and blue skies,” I mean it. In my professional opinion, Abilene, Texas, is better positioned today than ever before to leverage its resources and the partnership between the City, the Chamber and the DCOA to win the race for jobs and capital investment.

Pause, reflect and celebrate. Let’s take a minute or two to remember how far we’ve come, the men and women through whose leadership this community has made strides in developing our economy and let’s celebrate the work that’s been accomplished since the DCOA was launched in 1989. While we’re doing those things, let’s also think about and celebrate the road ahead, the dynamic partnership that serves as a model nationally for community and economic development, and let’s set our sights on the road ahead.

I’m excited about where our great city is headed, and am grateful for my small role. I’m also grateful for the Development Abilene partnership and my fellow leaders who are at that table, making good things happen, at the right time and for the right reasons.

Onward!
Doug

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