Reagan Hales

What We Learned From The EShip Summit This Summer

The last time I talked at length about ecosystems was likely in my high school biology class. Or perhaps it was when I helped my son with his science project in 5th grade.

Until I attended the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural EShip Summit this summer in Kansas City, I certainly hadn’t considered my community as a complex ecosystem, with each business, organization and resident playing a vital role.

Victor Hwang, Kauffman’s vice president of entrepreneurship, welcomed the group with a vision and a challenge. Drawing from his book “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley,” Hwang encouraged those of us in attendance to look at our economic communities not as rigid, highly-managed rows of corn or wheat, strictly regulated with oversight to keep out pests and invasive species.

Rather, Hwang challenged us all to shift our perspectives to look at our economic bases as rainforest, filled with thousands of flora and fauna all working collectively to maintain a lush and ever-thriving ecosystem resistant to whatever attacks or threats may occur.

As Hwang and the Kauffman Foundation through their ESHIP Summit playbook state, entrepreneurship (and in my opinion business in general), doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Healthy, robust business communities are the result of countless relationships and organizations working collectively in any given community. The healthiest ecosystems include these key elements:

  • Entrepreneurs: The movers, shakers, doer and dreamers and those that support new businesses.
  • Talent: The human engine that translates ideas into practice and product
  • Institutional Knowledge: The people and organizations in a community with the knowledge and resources to support businesses and entrepreneurs
  • Champions: Individuals that support and encourage entrepreneurs and critical business leaders in the ecosystem
  • Onramps: Those access points where entrepreneurs and small business owners can enter into the system and participate in the business community
  • Intersections: The facilities, social meet-ups or other environments that foster and encourage the interaction of people, ideas and resources.
  • Stories: The message individuals, organizations and businesses communicate to themselves as well as internal and external audiences about their business ecosystem
  • Culture: The rich social capital – collaboration cooperation, trust, and focus on the overall common good.

As I sat in the audience, I considered what the role of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation was in Amarillo’s business ecosystem. From my vantage point, I feel we play a vital role in the cultivation of a robust and healthy business community.

For more than 25 years, the Amarillo EDC has served the greater Amarillo area through our mission to grow the economy. It is also through this commitment to our mission that we are champions of local and regional business. Year in and year out, we work with other area organizations, civic leaders and businesses as advocates and cheerleaders for Amarillo business owners and corporate leaders.


The Amarillo crew at the Inc. 5000 Conference.

Amarillo EDC (@amarilloedc) on

Most importantly, I believe, is the duty of the AEDC to tell the story of Amarillo to national and international audiences that aren’t aware of all that this great community has to offer. Day after day, our staff spreads the message of opportunity and growth, family values, grit and tenacity to businesses leaders, consultants and executives from around the world.

Whether we are promoting advanced manufacturing, educational resources and advancements, a dedicated workforce or entrepreneurial opportunity, we are excited and honored to carry these messages to the rest of the world.

My challenge to other area business, organizations or even just area residents is to consider what role you play in Amarillo’s ecosystem.

Are you a true champion for our local business owners and entrepreneurs? Do you help facilitate any on-ramps or intersections that can help shape our culture or recruit talent? What story are you telling your employees, your clients and your family about this community?

We all have a role to play. Discover yours and join us in making Amarillo a city we are all proud of.

See what the Amarillo + Inc. Partnership could bring more business to our community.

Amarillo on INC

Photo courtesy Chad Renando @LinkedIn