What Lies Ahead for Your Chamber?
It’s been one heck of a couple of weeks for the volunteer leaders and staff of your Chamber. Unfortunately for me, I’ve missed most of it – thanks to Covid.
I’m happy to report that despite feeling pretty lousy overall, I’m recovered and easing back in the saddle. I was vaccinated back in January, so my symptoms were mild in comparison to so many others who’ve suffered through this nightmare of a virus. I’m genuinely thankful for every note and call from those of you who’ve checked on me and my family. They’ve meant a lot.
My being benched hasn’t slowed down the organization one single bit, I’m happy to report, with great work happening organization wide. And, thanks to the work of many of our partners, there are gobs (technical term) of amazing things happening all across our city.
Topping that list was last week’s action by Abilene City Council that capped a long process to help anchor our central business district with a convention headquarters hotel.
I’ve seen and participated in lot of development deals over the course of my career, but never one as careful and intentional as the Doubletree by Hilton Downtown Convention Headquarters Hotel.
If not for our city leaders, including most certainly City Manager Robert Hanna, this opportunity would’ve never materialized. Not only is it tremendously complex, but it’s also one that provides greater leverage for our taxpayers than I’ve witnessed anywhere.
We’ve already seen tremendous investment in the downtown by private investors based solely on the promise of this project. And, now that it’s crossing the finish line, we should continue to expect great things. Really great things.
Kudos to our city officials who carried the water on this project. Well done.
I also want to thank the long-time investors and volunteer leadership of the Chamber and its Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF).
They, too, saw the catalytic promise of this project and voted with their own private pocketbooks to spend early to help make it happen.
They knew that it was a risk. They also knew, though that the reward potential for our community was tremendous. None of them stand to “line their pockets” or otherwise benefit personally. They did it for our community, without concern for the credit of the accomplishment or a dime back in return. That, dear member, is the value of public/private partnership.
But hotel project aside, I can tell you that there’s more in the proverbial pipeline than you might expect. So many good things happening that it tends to be overwhelming.
Take for instance last week’s Business Expo. 165 booths and great traffic. Amazing volunteers who answered the call and delivered. On behalf of our board and staff alike, we are completely grateful. Thank you to each of our exhibitors, our sponsors, the attendees and everyone else who made our return to the Convention Center and what took place there a resounding success.
Our Military Affairs Committee (MAC) has been hard at work, not only focused on the future Long Range Strike Bomber, the current fleet of Dyess-based B-1B aircraft, C130 J aircraft and the men, women and families who make it all happen, but we also hosted the World’s Largest Barbecue on the heels of a successful trip to our nation’s capital to tell the Abilene/Dyess story. Remarkable people doing tremendously important work.
Our Convention & Visitors Bureau, led by a remarkable staff and an amazingly talented and dedicated Board, are working tirelessly to bring opportunities to our great city. The thoughtful work that belies this effort is heartfelt and vigorous. Their work often goes unnoticed, but their impact is substantial. We’re grateful for the “can-do” approach of these genuine drivers of our economy.
The talented crew who leads our Cultural Affairs effort have plans and efforts underway that maintain the high-level expectations of a grateful community – and then some. Thanks to all of those who’ve worked so hard to touch the lives of our neighbors and others who travel to our city to experience true West Texas, the arts, and our place as the Storybook Capital of America. It’s shocking to me how well-known across the country we are for our commitment to children’s literature, and how our Cultural Affairs team and volunteers have parlayed that effort into an unforgettable cultural experience.
Whether it’s our effort in workforce, entrepreneurship, downtown redevelopment, our Young Professionals, or any of the myriad other ongoing efforts of our unified organization, a lot is going on. And each of those hundreds of incremental moves are designed to collectively impact your business and to inch our community forward.
I also want to thank incoming Chair of the Board and executive Director of the Grace Museum Laura Moore for leading an exceptionally productive Board planning session a few short weeks ago.
Facilitated by our own Doug Williamson, your Board contributed to our go-forward plan in a way we can all be proud of. We will continue to work on the Board’s direction, which is based on great member feedback and a keen working knowledge of the business challenges and opportunities throughout our region. The Board, after all, represents our growing membership, and who has a better pulse on our business community than you?
We’ll have a draft of that proposal to you soon, but I can promise our work will continue to be high-level and what your Board leadership has in store for our members will continue to impact the economy and quality of life of the Abilene region.
In closing, I want to relay a conversation I had with one of our division Chairs last week. We were talking about some of the challenges we’ve experienced over the last 18 months or so, and the work that so many have done to meet those challenges head-on.
I was overwhelmed by a thought that I had to share, and I hope you agree it’s worth sharing with you.
That thought was this:
It isn’t always easy to do the work we do, or to overcome the obstacles that sometimes stand in the way of doing it. But at the end of the day, no matter how hard it gets, we must remember that we’re appreciatively still in Abilene, Texas.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in Abilene, Texas…you’re lucky enough.