November 01, 2016
Community & Diversity: A New Perspective On Economic Development
The Amarillo EDC and the West Texas A&M Enterprise Center is sending eight local entrepreneurs to represent our thriving business community at the INC. 5000 Conference & Gala in San Antonio in October. Each of the attendees has offered to contribute a blog about their experiences as an entrepreneur working in the Texas Panhandle. This is a guest post by Sammi Gallagher, Project Director at ROI Online, an internet marketing agency.
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Sammi Gallagher, Project Director at ROI Online, a nationally recognized internet marketing agency right here in Amarillo, Texas. I moved from Grand Blanc, Michigan, to Texas in 2011 and my only regret is not getting here sooner!
I know, I can see the look on your face right now, “How the heck did you get to Amarillo from Michigan?” It’s a long story and I will spare you most of the details, but the short version is that I attended West Texas A&M University to participate as a varsity member of their equestrian team. After being offered an amazing job and getting to know the Amarillo community, I knew I had found my new home!
Now that you have some context to my story, let me tell you about the town where I grew up. Where is Grand Blanc, Michigan? It is a small, charming suburb nestled about 25 minutes south of Flint and 45 minutes northeast of Detroit. That got your wheels turning, didn’t it? I would venture to guess that one of three topics just came to mind: water crisis, crime or the auto industry. It definitely stings when I see the reaction on people’s faces when I mention “Flint.”
I grew up with a father in the auto industry and a mother in housing. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
While I don’t really remember exactly when it started happening, and I wouldn’t connect the dots until later in life, I slowly watched the cities around my hometown whither. I remember driving past a massive assembly plant as a small child, being enamored by the sheer number of cars parked outside. That lot sits mostly vacant now.
I recall my dad searching for a new job after working with the same people for over 20 years. My mother would also have to start looking for work elsewhere. Luckily, my parents had a diverse set of skills that allowed them to find employment in other industries; other families were not as lucky. Many of my friends' parents moved to other states or were laid off.
This story is pretty common across the U.S. and I think we can all relate to the economic downturn. I won’t pretend to be an economic expert, and I’m sure there was much more going on behind the scenes than I comprehend, but watching these sorrows play out in your own backyard has a profound impact on the way you see the world.
Fast forward a few years and I can say that I have a much different understanding and appreciation for organizations like the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and WT Enterprise Center. These organizations make it their mission to help entrepreneurs, businesses and the city of Amarillo succeed.
The foresight to invest in entrepreneurs and new businesses to promote economic diversity, to me, is the true cornerstone of economic development. After all, what do you do when you put all of your eggs in one basket and that basket breaks?
As a community, we rally behind businesses and support economic diversity. The Enterprise Center is an internationally recognized incubation center, unique in so many ways. Before my interactions with it, I never would have dreamed of starting my own business. After learning about all of the support it has to offer with business planning and seeing all of their success stories, I know that is a legitimate possibility for anyone with an idea and a dream!
After talking to a variety of business owners at the INC. 5000 conference in San Antonio, every single one of them was intrigued when I spoke about the Amarillo community. When I mentioned the Enterprise Challenge and the $500,000 in grant money the AEDC funds, many of the business owners wished that kind of resource had been available to them!
It’s not just the funding and business support that makes Amarillo unique — it’s the people. A community full of hardworking people always looking to help their neighbor, offer advice or connect you with the right people to make your biggest ideas and dreams become reality.
Sammi Gallagher is the Project Director at ROI Online, an internet marketing agency. After transferring from Western Michigan University to WTAMU, she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. Sammi grew up riding horses and continued her passion at WTAMU, where she acquired several regional and national titles.
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