113 Years and Counting

October 19, 2020Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber

Last week, I had the privilege of doing something that I enjoy more than just about anything. And I got to do it twice.

What was it? I was able to help orient our volunteer leaders, both committee and board members, on the history of the Chamber, its purpose and our pathway forward.

What was particularly of interest was that everything I shared with these unique leaders was exactly what has been said by many before me to so many over the decades of Chamber impact and influence in our community. Nothing has changed, really. It’s just that new faces, new energy, new commitment and renewed vision have arrived. The tradition of caring for the interests of Abilene businesses remains the same.

In fact, we’re going into our 114th year, having evolved over time since 1908, when your Chamber was known as the “Abilene 25,000 Club.” 25,000 what? Residents. That’s right, long before any of us walked the earth, our business predecessors were here, building a better Abilene for all of us and it started by an effort to build a population of 25,000 in a small West Texas outpost known as Abilene.

I thought it was particularly interesting a couple of weeks ago when, as an exercise, the Chamber did the math on exactly how much experience exists just among the professional staff who support our volunteer leaders. If you take the combined experience of the men and women who work at the Chamber, there is more than 250 years of experience among them. Think about that. If that 250 years represented one single person, that person would’ve been on our staff since before the very founding of our country.

Add to that the hundreds of years of practical business experience of our members and – wow. Who knows how much combined leadership exists in our community in terms of business acumen, world experience and passion for our city. What happens when that experienced is harnessed for the greater good?

Another interesting (to me, any way) element that I shared with those rising to leadership in the Chamber was this: Think about the work that “people like you, in a room like this,” have taken on that has shaped Americana as we know it today.

For instance, the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Undertaken as a public relations stunt by people just like our volunteer leaders who, in a room just like the one we met in, set out to make a small community on the outskirts of Los Angeles stand out for something.

Think about the Golden Gate Bridge. That American icon was the product of a transportation committee, comprised of people like you in a conference room like ours, to solve a transportation challenge to enhance the economic competitiveness of the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California.

The Spirit of St. Louis and the famous St. Louis Arch? Yep. Initiated to draw attention to an otherwise unremarkable city in the Midwest.

And those stories continue on forever. What’s the one thing they all had in common? They were born in a conference room at a local Chamber, by people just like you. And, they literally changed their communities, if not the world.

So how will you help change the world?

Will it be through your own engagement in West Texas’s oldest and largest business advocacy organization?

Will it be because you attended a Chamber function, connected with the right person or people, and decided to take on a project or program that will shape the future of our community?

That’s the beauty of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. As a convener of people, we have the ability to assemble the horsepower and the brain power of the people in this region who can make a difference. We understand and respect our role of assisting where we can to create a better Abilene, Texas, for all of us.

And when I say “we,” I’m not talking about the staff. I’m talking about our members. You. And people like you, who come together for the common purpose of making progress happen. 2,200 people. 1,300 who make up the Chamber’s membership. Add another 300 who are members of our Military Affairs Committee (MAC). And then toss in nearly 600 passionate souls who are the Abilene Young Professionals (AYP).

And, we have a vision, written by those who support our work collectively to ensure we operate as effectively and efficiently as is possible. If you’re unaware of what we’re working on, take a look HERE.  The Chamber’s Program of Work, a product of thoughtful leaders working together to identify a pathway forward in the interests of business. And it isn’t new. The core components of the 2021 Program of Work are the same – working to enhance the economy and quality of life in the Abilene region.

In a future article to appear here, I hope to share with you some of those impactful achievements that were initiated and completed by your own Chamber, by people like you. The impacts have been significant. We’re proud of our members. And we’re equally proud of their accomplishments. Finally, we’re proud of the impact of their accomplishments. And most of it is stuff most people think “just happens.”

So what will your contribution be? What big idea do you have to make Abilene more economically competitive? More attractive? More likely to attract and retain the workforce that’s required to assist our partners in attracting jobs and capital investment to our community? To help broaden the tax base that impacts everyone who lives or visits our great city?

We’re grateful for the support we get through those businesses who support us. We’re entirely local, with no affiliations with any other Chamber organization anywhere.  We’re not a local chapter of the US Chamber or any other entity. We’re entirely Abilene. We’re all you. All day, everyday. Thank you for your commitment.



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