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You will pave the pathway forward

December 21, 2020Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

This time last year, I was dismayed to learn that the year 2020 was not in fact the first year of the next decade, but rather the final year of the previous decade.  Remember that?  It was a Facebook “thing” among our friends.

I don’t think there are too many of us who will be too sad to say goodbye to the previous decade, while taking from it the good things that happened to us, our families and our communities.

But one of the interesting parts of “Chamber work” is that the majority of the work we do isn’t intended to impact our members today.  Sure, some do.  But the Chamber is an organization that’s driven by the leadership of its investors, and our eyes are always trained on our collective futures.

So with that, we thought it would be fun to cap this year (decade, actually) by sharing what many of the Chamber’s volunteer leaders perceive as our future.  What will Abilene look like at the turn of the next decade?

Enjoy these thoughts from just a few of Abilene’s best – and here’s to a Merry Christmas and safe and prosperous new year (and decade)!

“Technology will make work and workers more mobile, allowing businesses to attract and retain workers from a broader talent pool, while also improving work-life balance for workers.  Implementation of artificial intelligence will integrate “smart” technology with human workers to enhance decision-making and collaboration, at the same time it allows for more personalized customer interactions and increases productivity.   Continuous learning and digital literacy will be essential for all workers.” – Mary Ross, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas

“I look forward to the next decade living in Abilene with excitement because I trust in the values and capabilities of the next generation as they meet us with new experiences, fresh ideas, and the energy to transform our community in ways that all began with the vision of the previous generations.” – Courtney M. Queen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

“Over the next 10 years, I believe Abilene will continue to embrace our rich diversity and culture. When we embrace our differences, we are all better. Abilene will continue to grow into a hub that is welcoming to all people. Through this, Abilene will make its mark as a business and family friendly destination in Texas.” – Travis Ruiz, News Director for KTAB/KRBC/Telemundo

“The travel and tourism industry is full of promise. Through partnerships and collaboration, I predict significant growth, fueled by conventions, with the Expo Center and Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center welcoming more regional and national events (and future expansions planned).  Visitors will flock to our world-class attractions, stroll the lighted downtown from SoDA to the Convention Center anchored by a robust Downtown Convention Hotel.  The Abilene Zoo will greet its 300,000 annual guests. Health and wellbeing will be at the forefront with parks offering more opportunities for fitness with bike, running and walking trails.  Abilene will be a city for all; a place for the young and young-at-heart; a place to live in harmony and where a smile is still part of our everyday wardrobe.” – Nanci Liles, Executive Director of Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau

“The Abilene of the future will include many new job opportunities. With technology rapidly advancing, autonomy will be the new driver of many of our industries, creating new primary jobs and building prosperity for Abilene families.” – Misty Mayo, CEO of the Development Corporation of Abilene

“In the next 10 years, I would expect Abilene to continue an upward growth pattern, with specific improvements in technology with expanded broadband coverage in the city, improved workforce based on training and repurposing of the workforce to fit available jobs market and new technologies for learning for all K-12 students with more emphasis on workforce applications and skill set education.”  – Gary Grubbs, Lawrence Hall – Abilene

“Though 2020 has been an unexpected challenge, I predict the momentum and synergy will continue to grow as we push forward to create an active and vibrant downtown. With laser focus and determination, the Abilene community will see this vision through. Downtown Abilene & The SoDA District will become the heartbeat of Abilene! Ten years from now, I am hopeful that Downtown Abilene will be a destination location that draws people here from all across the nation to live, work and play.” – Tim Smith, Entrepreneur, SoDA District Venues

“Over the next 10 years, the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council plans to partner with nonprofit art organizations to help them expand programming and attendance. Abilene’s reputation as the Storybook Capital of America® will be enhanced through the addition of beloved storybook sculptures, including a signature kinetic sculpture sited at the Abilene Convention Center near the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden and the new hotel. This contemporary, stainless steel sculpture, In Cloud Light IV, is 19.5 feet tall and reminiscent of the whimsical Truffula trees from the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax.”

“The partnership between all entities in the Abilene Cultural District and SoDA District will be cemented through joint marketing efforts that promote art events, dining, bars, as well as on-going happenings that bring people to downtown Abilene.  Two beautifully lit underpasses will connect the two districts, creating a synergy that will result in thousands of visitors who will travel back and forth between both districts to experience the vast array of offerings.” – Lynn Barnett, Executive Director of Abilene Cultural Affairs Council

“The workforce will be quite different due to the explosion of artificial intelligence, but we anticipate there will still be some employees that will be required to have a physical presence at the workplace.  These employees will need to be even more interpersonally competent given the highly technical environment of the workplace. Between 2020-2040, futurists in higher education are predicting extreme worker shortages in the following occupations:  teachers, sales representatives, management, nurses, accounting/finance, engineers, occupational and physical therapists, mathematicians, health diagnosticians, rail and water transportation, and lawyers.  Future academic planning should keep these shortage fields in mind.  To that end, McMurry University will launch new areas of study in human health sciences (with tracks in medicine/research, allied health professions preparation, and public health/wellness), sustainability and renewable resources, physics engineering, and cybersecurity. McMurry will also expand its offerings in the McMurry Virtual Campus for those students who are unable to attend classes in person.” – Dr. Sandra Harper, President of McMurry University

“After seeing Abilenians step up and persevere through the craziness and stress of 2020, I am reassured that we will do whatever it takes to provide assistance and care for those in need in our community.  Our nonprofit sector was hit hard due to programs being shut down, doors being closed, and fundraisers being cancelled, but donors provided gifts that helped keep them open.  I’m predicting that no matter what happens over the next 10 years, Abilene will continue to be one of the most generous communities.  Whether the need is housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, educating our youth, providing healthcare, or addressing other needs of our neighbors, Abilenians will always find ways to make a difference and an impact in other people’s lives.” – Katie Alford, President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Abilene

“When I first started this position at Day Nursery of Abilene decades ago I thought how great it would be if we (early care/education field) would eventually work ourselves out of a job which would mean that children were cared for at home by moms/dads before they head off to school. Knowing that’s not the case as the number of professional women in the workplace has grown exponentially over the last 40 years or so and many households are single parent-lead and there are also a number of children now being raised by grandparents, other family members, etc.  What we know from this year of the pandemic is that child care is incredibly important, critical to a family’s and community’s economic development and deemed essential by leadership in every state and our nation.  My prediction over the next 10 years would be that the field of early childhood development would continue to grow as a valued/recognized profession and that as it grows, so would the talent in the field to attract the best of the best.  I love that the early childhood industry can be the launching point for those who want to have a career dedicated to making a significant difference in the early educational lives of children!” – Cynthia Pearson, President/CEO of Day Nursery of Abilene

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