What’s in a Name?

Jan 2023
Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

William Shakespeare asked that question, and in Romeo & Juliet, he answered it by suggesting that names themselves are a convention to distinguish things or people, but themselves do not have any worth or meaning.

I suppose that’s true, but apparently Bill hadn’t spent a lot of time in West Texas.

Abilene, Texas, is a community built on strong West Texas values, but also a special place with a unique history all its own. Just ask Jay Moore, our favorite historian. That guy can rattle off more names from our past than anyone – and each of them have significant meaning.

And that same meaning stands behind much of the work of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

Exactly 60 years ago, a group of local business leaders established a name that has served our community well for generations. It was the Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF), which has represented the private sector by bringing some of the area’s most influential business and industry representatives to a singe table to work on efforts and issues of importance to our economy and our community.  Thousands of jobs and hundreds of remarkable efforts have been established because of the work of the AIF. We couldn’t be prouder of the men and women who have done all of that heavy lifting over the years.

The legacy and promise of the AIF is only just beginning. Even after all these years.

But one thing has changed recently with the AIF. While the AIF will always be the AIF, its brand has changed to support its realigned role in community economic development. Effective last month, the AIF board voted unanimously to adopt a brand that better defines who we are and what we do. That brand, established as a “DBA,” is the Abilene Regional Growth Alliance.

Let me explain.

First, when you go messing with an organization of such accomplishment and impact, you don’t do it in a vacuum. I want to thank the countless leaders who weighed in on establishing the new brand and recognize the challenge they took on.

But it was easy to understand that the name Abilene Industrial Foundation, established in 1963, no longer fully defines us. We continue to work to support industry, but the AIF isn’t a Foundation, per se. I wish I had a nickel for every grant request we’ve received that we’ve been unable to fulfil.

Let’s talk about the Growth Alliance.

There’s no doubt that it’ll take some time to get used to. Changing the name of an iconic organization creates a hard habit to break. I’m guilty of it – and likely will be for a while.

When we established the new brand, it was with much thought and purpose. In an agreement several years ago with the Development Corporation of Abilene, we recognized that the DCOA was enhancing the role that government has played in economic development. And we applaud it. However, economic development in Abilene has always been the product of a storied public/private partnership. That will never change.

As we considered the brand, we considered the following:

Abilene will always be the regional hub that drives the Big Country economy and the communities who benefit from it.

Regional was added because no community is defined by an artificial geographic boundary – the more successful the region, the more successful the communities within it. What’s good for Abilene is good for our neighbors – and vice versa. You get it

Growth was an integral part of the brand because that’s what AIF has always been about. Helping our community thrive has been central to the AIF’s work since its inception. We want to help grow jobs. And workforce. And all the things that help us to attract and retain investment in our area.

Alliance, simply put, was the easy part. Nothing the Chamber or the AIF has accomplished has been on its own. We are committed to remaining the single most collaborative and cooperative partner in the area by bringing the horsepower and influence of the private sector to any opportunity that falls within our mission.

So, there you have it! Abilene. Regional. Growth. Alliance. Some will call it ARGA. We’ll call it the Growth Alliance. But deep down, it will remain the same, successful Abilene Industrial Foundation.

With the new brand comes a renewed commitment to the work AIF has always done. We’re better resourced and have the same brain trust of “doers” who love their community and are deeply committed to it. As evidenced in the recent, successful, LEADAbi effort, we have a lot of work to do. Together. With partners. For our region.

I want to thank you for the tremendous support you’ve provided for the Chamber’s family of entities. Whether its attracting outside dollars to our economy through tourism, advocating for our business community at all levels of government, helping to drive jobs and capital investment, looking after our friends and neighbors at Dyess Air Force Base, helping to revitalize our downtown, supporting our growing member base, teaching the world what “arts and culture” looks like, or helping to develop the young leaders of our area, your Chamber and each of its operating units are deeply committed to success.

Thank you for what you, your business, and your associates do to help grow our great area.  You are deeply appreciated.