New Year, Boundless Energy

January 6, 2020Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

A lot can be said about the men and women who make up the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

I’m not talking about the professional staff, who grind out an effort every day (and many nights) to benefit our growing business members.  And even though our staff is the best in the business, it’s members like you who make the difference.

I’m talking about the hundreds – thousands, actually – of business people who want what’s best for our great city, and put in the time, talent and treasure to make it happen.  Remember the impact calculation I shared with you previously? 2,401 representatives of our membership, contributing more than 60,000 hours of volunteer time, capitalized to equal $1.75 million in people value? That’s the real value of our association – we’re driven by the leadership of our investors.

As a review, the Chamber’s mission is to develop and promote the economy and quality of life in the Abilene area. Has been for a long time. We do that through a whole bunch of initiatives, all methodically established through the leadership of the Chamber’s board, elected by our members.

And while much of our work is behind the scenes, one of our efforts – soon to be six years old – is a bit more visible, and for good reason.

What am I talking about? The Abilene Young Professionals (AYP), of course.  Let me tell you why AYP matters to your business, regardless of your direct involvement in it.

Long before I came to Abilene several business leaders – through the Chamber – began to consider a couple of issues that profoundly impact any community. One is brain drain, the dreaded loss of our own to other communities. The second is a shrinking workforce. The question was, how do we change the equation – internally and externally – to ensure our young people find value in staying here or returning here to live their lives?

I want to credit those who stood up our AYP effort. Sure, there were a few “old people” involved, but the lion’s share of the effort and the creativity came from the best and the brightest “under forties” our city had to offer.

But here’s how it went down. Those early conversations led to a commitment by the Chamber’s board, representing you our member, to do something to impact the two aforementioned challenges.  And impact they have.

Today, just six short years after that board commitment was made, the AYP program boasts nearly 600 members, and is largely underwritten by a handful of companies who understand and appreciate the value.

Folks, there are some Chambers of Commerce who don’t have 600 members. That number is meaningful. Think about this:

When your Chamber heads off to Washington, DC or to Austin to advocate on your behalf, here’s the horsepower we bring:  nearly 1,300 business members representing some 38,000 employees; 570 young professionals determined to make Abilene a better place for all of us; 300 individuals committed to protecting and growing the mission at Dyess Air Force Base and supporting our airmen and their families; a long-standing public/private partnership that works together to advance the economy, create jobs and attract capital investment; a robust arts community that rivals any in the nation; a tourism effort that brings hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact to our city; and a metric ton of winning attitude.

That’s a loud, unified voice and a whole bunch of muscle.

And get this: we do that in concert with our public partners – ensuring that our community is on the same page when it comes to what matters most.

But let’s talk for another moment about this Young Professional thing. First, I’m not sure if you see what I see, but I get the distinct sense that these folks are benefiting from their emerging circles of influence. They support and encourage one another, they share stories of triumph and defeat, they look for the good in our community and they tell others about it.  If your associates aren’t participating, they should and here are but a few ways they can do so.

  • AYP After Five takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 14 and is sponsored by Perkins Insurance. The Texas Rangers will be in attendance to talk about their new stadium with players present to give autographs.
  • AYP recently launched a new initiative to work with employers who are recruiting or just hired a young professional. If you just added a new young professional to your team or are bringing in a potential hire for your company, let AYP help welcome them to town by grabbing a cup of coffee or lunch. No strings attached! Here’s how it works.
  • The 2020 class of 20 Under 40 will be announced mid-January and a reception will take place in their honor in Feb. 6 at 201 Mesquite, sponsored by Lawrence Hall Abilene. Details can be found here.
  • And that AYP leadership team is currently planning the next Young Professionals Summit to take place in 2021.  I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Summit that included more than 300 young professionals in attendance with representation from all across West Texas.  What better way to show off our city than to let those who are helping to build it show it off?

Obviously, I’m a bit proud of the work and the reach of this great effort of your Chamber, and I can safely say that with just a little guidance, these young leaders are absolutely killing it.  Get involved, get your associates involved and let’s see where this next generation of talent and leadership can help take our great city.

After all, it’s a new year, and there’s no stopping these folks nor is there need to – they’re doing it right.  Let’s continue to support those who are making a difference in our community, our economy and our quality of place.

Onward!
Doug

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