A Sum of our Parts…

July 18, 2022Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce
LEAD Abilene Generic Graphic

If you’re a frequent reader of this column, you’ve likely heard me reference that Abilene, Texas, – our great city – is a unique community in the way we operate.

In nearly all that we do, it takes all of us, working together without worrying about who gets the credit, to achieve great things that make us who we are. And Abilene does that. And does it well.

The Chamber and its operating divisions are a private-sector driven microcosm of our community. In 2016, the Chamber’s volunteer efforts – not including professional staff efforts – accounted for more than 2400 people doing heavy lifting on behalf of our businesses and community overall. And it’s only grown since them.

That’s a lot of people, doing important work. And in many cases, it’s work that most people think just happens.”

We’re in a good place

Over the last several years, we’ve worked hard to ensure we’re aligned with the tremendous progress taking place in our community whether we’re directly leading it or not. In economic development specifically, we’re pleased by the progress made by our Industrial Foundation and how its leadership has realigned to support the larger, greater good.

And in true Abilene form and fashion, the private sector will remain a vital part of our community’s economic and community development effort, just as it has for the last 60 years. 

Enter LEADAbilene 

If you’re unfamiliar, LEADAbi is the Industrial Foundation’s new, five-year plan to focus on the little things that all add up to the big things like helping better position our community for workforce attraction, job creation, and capital investment.

In other words, the AIF is committed to focusing solely on continually improving the “saleability” of our community.

Beginning with more than 65 community leader interviews, LEADAbi is an effort to further elevate the work the AIF board undertakes over the next five years. Punctuated with measurement and a defined return on investment, LEADAbi is much more than the AIF’s annual pledge drive.

Historically, AIF staff and a handful of volunteers raised funds, largely among its board members, to bring private sector resources to the economic development table. Names like Scott Senter (Senter, REALTORS), Gary Grubbs (ABI Advantage Media/Lawrence Hall Abilene), Shaun Martin (Atmos Energy), Marelyn Shedd (First Financial Bank) and John Beckham (Beckham, Rector & Eargle, L.L.P.) have assembled passionate Abilenians to help raise the bar on the AIF’s efforts.

In doing so, the Chamber’s AIF has grown into the largest private-sector community development effort in West Texas, and it partners with many to help advance the Abilene region’s economy and quality of place.

The LEADAbi plan is simple, yet sophisticated that focuses on three initiatives that are:

  • Grow and retain existing business
    • We will increase our economic prosperity by providing resources, support and opportunities for local business in Abilene and the region.
  • Expand key industry sectors
    • We will grow key business sectors that will add jobs and capital investment to the area as well as enhance community-building efforts and quality of life.
  • Enhance community infrastructure
    • We will build a vibrant community that attracts jobs, investment, and people.

Each focus area is tied to measurement, and by implementing these projects outlined in the plan, LEADAbi is expected to create, for every hundred jobs it generates and retains, 85-to-95 indirect jobs with a regional economic impact of $4.4 million.

And I’m proud to announce that as of this morning, this effort has been received with incredible response in the form of private support over the next five years to help drive the private sector’s role toward a stronger, even more vibrant Abilene for tomorrow.

Combine that with the projected $2 million in volunteer time value around implementation of the effort and you’ll begin to see the potential of this refined initiative. This five-year pledge period will enable the AIF to invest more time “doing” and less time fundraising.

We welcome you aboard this important effort that will help to pave the way for a bright future for Abilene, its residents, our newcomers, and our children.

To dive in deeper to the effort, click here.

Why it matters

According to the State Comptroller, there are nearly 3,500 total businesses in the Abilene area. Of those 3,500 businesses, 277 are Type A eligible. That’s 3,223 men and women working to deliver the Big Country a product, feed their families, make payroll, support little league teams and more that deserve, and need fostering and support.

We work to impact the expansion of those eligible for Type A funding through growth and opportunity as we can with existing Abilene businesses while ensuring the health of our entire business community is well taken care of.

Together –our public/private partnership with the City of Abilene is unmatched anywhere.

Thank you

This is a big deal.

I want to thank former Mayor Norm Archibald and Scott Dueser (First Financial Bankshares) for co-chairing an effort that’s currently underway. And to not mention the men and women who have joined them in helping with this effort would be a tragic oversight. As I mentioned earlier, it takes all of us, and we are a sum of our parts. We are grateful for the passion and commitment each bring to this effort.

On behalf of Messrs Archibald and Dueser and their cabinet members, AIF Chairman Gary Grubbs, Chamber and Chamber Foundation Chair Laura Moore (The Grace Museum) and the entire AIF and Chamber Boards and executive committees, thank you for all you do to help grow and sustain this amazing place we call home.





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