Tony DeLisi

AEDC And The City Taking Steps to Align Amarillo

Developing the Align Amarillo Economic Development Strategic Plan has been a cooperative process from the beginning. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) and City of Amarillo contracted Avalanche Consulting of Austin and Community Development Strategies (CDS) of Houston to help them engage the residents and businesses of Amarillo and build a comprehensive economic development strategy for the entire community.

During the Discovery Phase, the consulting team has reached out to business owners, educators, healthcare providers, utility operators, entrepreneurs, elected officials, and individual citizens through interviews, focus groups, city tours, an online survey, and a public visioning meeting.

In addition to hearing the stories of over 1,000 residents through this process, Avalanche Consulting and CDS have benchmarked and analyzed data on Amarillo’s economy and demographics.

This combination of research and stakeholder engagement is critical to identifying the characteristics and assets that make Amarillo unique. It also allows the consulting team to put the city’s challenges in perspective and better understand how they might be addressed by this strategy.

As the Discovery Phase nears completion, a few consistent stories emerge about Amarillo’s past, present, and possible future:

Amarillo has a resilient economy – Amarillo has created jobs at a steady rate since the recession, and at 3.4% local unemployment is lower than the state (4.9%) and nation (4.8%). Most local industries are creating jobs, and Amarillo continues to export a large share of goods and services.

Amarillo gets things done – Amarillo was built by hardworking pioneers and continues to be a community that prides itself on its independence, work ethic, and ingenuity in the face of challenges. The numerous businesses successfully incubated at the WT Enterprise Center and long history of entrepreneurship in the community are prime examples of Amarillo ingenuity.  

Amarillo has strong regional institutions – In healthcare and education, Amarillo is the center of the Texas Panhandle – with world-class educational institutions and hospitals like Amarillo College, West Texas A&M, Texas Tech, BSA, and Northwest Texas Healthcare. These institutions not only serve the citizens of Amarillo and the Panhandle by keeping them healthy and preparing students for modern careers, but they also conduct cutting-edge research in pharmaceuticals, agricultural technology, and much more.

Amarillo has a shrinking labor pool – Like the entire nation, labor force participation in Amarillo is falling. As some residents leave the city in search of job opportunities elsewhere and others simply leave the labor force altogether, Amarillo businesses face increasing challenges finding local employees with the skills and training demanded in the current economy.

Amarillo is not yet equal – As workforce availability tightens, we become increasingly aware of gaps remaining in the community. Today, more than twice as many white residents of Amarillo have bachelor’s degrees than non-white citizens. Poverty levels are also three times higher among non-white citizens. Providing prosperous job opportunities for all citizens of Amarillo will require connecting them with the education and training demanded by the city’s growing industries.

Brought together, these stories begin to reveal a path forward for Amarillo.

In the coming months, the consulting team will work with AEDC, the City, Randall County, Potter County, Amarillo College, West Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, the Chamber of Commerce, private employers, and many other citizens and organizations throughout Amarillo to develop a strategy that builds on the community’s strengths.

This strategy will truly attempt to Align Amarillo – ensuring that the independent activities of these many partners are working together toward a shared vision and purpose.

With the same pioneering spirit that put Amarillo on the map, we believe that y’all can make the community investments necessary to face any challenges ahead.

To learn more about Align Amarillo, contact the Amarillo EDC or City of Amarillo.