AEDC opens #MeetAmarillo dialogue

Posted by Karen Welch on
The AEDC has launched a #MeetAmarillo campaign.

Amarillo EDC Roundtable

By Karen Welch — Senior Content Producer

Sometimes, you can get a little too good at keeping secrets.

In negotiations, secrets have their place.

You want to get the best deal? Don’t tell the opposite side how much you’re willing to pay.

You want a company to come to the negotiating table? Don’t go blabbing their confidential information all over town.

You want to keep competitors from stealing your best gets? Again, sssshhhh.

Those are all instances in which the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. practices confidentiality and, as a collector of public money to do its job, the AEDC often is criticized for being too secretive.

But Monday, the AEDC launched an interesting initiative aimed at openness – at least as far as those who carry out its mission believe they can go, considering the situations mentioned above.

AEDC staff hosted a media roundtable with the idea of speaking to you through, well, us.

It stemmed from what they called a realization that the corporation had not previously done a great job of communicating about its work to you, the residents of Amarillo and the area.

Early this year, AEDC launched a #MeetAmarillo campaign but soon realized it not only needed to introduce Amarillo to those it wanted to attract here but it should better communicate what it is doing on a daily basis to those who live here.

Doug Nelson, who has been acting as interim AEDC president since the departure of president and CEO Buzz David, described a host of trade shows and industry events staff members attend to build relationships with site selectors, corporate clients and corporate real estate representatives.

He also discussed tools that can be considered as corporations look at Amarillo. Some of those include incentive packages and assistance with securing property tax abatements from local governments.

State approaches to economic development vary, creating a different playing field that depends upon the competitors, Nelson said.

In other states, companies often work through a state economic development office to get down to the local level for a project, he said. But in Texas, companies initiate projects at the local level. Then entities such as the AEDC look at adding into their packages for state dollars for projects when applicable, Nelson said.

So that can sometimes leave the Amarillo economic development entity or other local Texas entities competing with other states for business, he said.

Hear Nelson's explanation for yourself on the video above. (And, sorry about the reporter who walked in front of the cameras as he spoke. The AEDC conference room is a tight space.)

I’ll be honest, Monday’s media roundtable included a lot of information I knew – like the AEDC gets its funding from a half-cent sales tax collected in the city – because I’ve been a journalist paid to be aware of how the AEDC works. But sometimes the most basic information gets overlooked because, when you’ve heard it over and over, you assume others know it, too.

If you haven’t looked at the AEDC website lately, there’s a lot more information there now than there used to be. Or at least, it is geared more toward a community understanding that’s not just for corporate CEOs.

Visit and check out the workforce data, financing and incentives information, demographics info, blogs and more.

I think the challenge now is for the AEDC staff to continue the dialogue. If they can’t tell you what companies they’re talking to early on, explain what business recruiting conferences they’re going to. Tell us what site selectors are looking for and how Amarillo measures up. Provide us, as a community, with information about what we need to do better – what they’re hearing from corporations that took a look and passed.

And give us a realistic picture of just how competitive it is out there. We read news of cities landing big plants every day. But the shortened news reports of those announcements we hear don’t always tell us the incentives laid out to land them.

Add that reality into our understanding so that when incentives packages are discussed, we can have the conversation about their true cost balanced with the knowledge that corporations are widely courted and will go where the offers are best.

On the flipside, if Monday’s effort continues, then the community owes the AEDC staff its attention and willingness to be informed.

 

Karen Welch is a senior content producer for Panhandle PBS. She can be contacted at Karen.Welch@actx.edu, at @KWelch806 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/karensmithwelch on Facebook.    

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