Abilene’s Three-Legged Stool

April 5, 2021Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

One of the unique characteristics of Abilene that is most-often mentioned when I encounter my peers across the state is the fact that our community’s economic development effort is grounded in a public-private partnership (P3).

In my years of doing economic and community development across the country, I can tell you that P3s are easier said than done. In fact, it was the promise of a strong public-private partnership that compelled me to invest my family’s future in this great city.

Successful P3s afford shared responsibility across three sectors: the private sector (the Chamber and its Industrial Foundation – or AIF) the City of Abilene (business-friendly policy) and the publicly-funded entity (Development Corporation of Abilene) that is accountable to the taxpayer and to the elected officials of the community.

In this case, the P3, often referred to as a “three-legged stool,” requires each of the partners to deliver at their highest level. And to do that, a mutually agreed upon approach, cooperation and communication are the keys to success. One weak leg and the stool will fall over.

Last week, I presented the AIF’s second quarter report to the board of the DCOA. The AIF is a 60-plus year-old organization born in the Chamber, and still today accountable ultimately to the Chamber’s elected Board of Directors.

But because the AIF also serves as the private sector’s representative in Abilene’s P3, and performs contract services for the DCOA, we are also accountable to the DCOA and the City of Abilene.

If you recall, the AIF and the DCOA went through a realignment last July. You can read more about that here, but a quick refresher, the AIF continues to work to provide support and opportunity to those businesses already vested in Abilene. Helping build an “ecosystem” that promotes organic job growth from within through entrepreneurship, workforce and talent development, retail and more.

So how does the AIF stand up to their weight of the P3? Here are some impact numbers from the report last week:

  • $300k in the Advanced Together Implementation Grant
  • $37,500 matching grant to commission a new workforce study
  • 338 hours of continuing education for staff
  • 98 businesses connected to education, industry, Dyess Air Force Base and community projects related to workforce
  • 530 Type A companies identified and 450 updated Type A business information
  • 150 entrepreneurs reached through educational opportunities, networking, etc.
  • Three on-site visits focused on skills and labor gaps
  • Two new newsletters launched for workforce related issues for businesses

It’s a real honor to help lead the private sector’s portion of the P3, and to work closely alongside not only the City and the DCOA, but also the other partners known as “DevelopAbilene.” Each of us are responsible for our component parts of Abilene’s economic development strategy and we’re accountable for results.

The AIF is grateful to its all-volunteer board which includes more than 925 years of experience in helping to move our economic development needle closer to success. From the $170k in private resources invested into the creation of the ongoing downtown Festival District, to the $112 million in pipeline projects in the Downtown and Downtown corridor, the Chamber and AIF’s professionally trained staff and volunteers are working hard on behalf of the community.

And, I know we all look forward to continuing to serve Abilene’s P3.



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