Abilene prides itself on being a city of “firsts”: the first Texas city to create a sales-tax funded economic development effort in 1989, the first to create a downtown reinvestment zone, and the first community outside the state’s major metropolitan areas to receive a cultural district designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts. These and other bold actions have helped the community create a highly successful business recruitment and retention effort. However, developing, retaining, and attracting the talent needed to meet the needs of existing and future employers is among the challenges that remain for the community.
TIP Strategies was engaged by the city’s economic development sales tax corporation, the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA), to design a comprehensive economic development strategy to guide the DCOA and its community partners over a 5- to 10-year horizon. Working closely with Abilene’s business and community leaders, TIP identified the city’s biggest challenges and most promising opportunities for economic growth. The plan was built around 10 priority recommendations designed to align with those challenges and opportunities and to move the community beyond its traditional focus on industrial recruitment. This more holistic effort builds on the region’s success by leveraging its growing base of higher education and healthcare institutions, creating a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and capitalizing on Abilene’s connections with and relative proximity to the fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth market. The plan was widely embraced by local community and business leaders. Following presentation to the Abilene City Council, the plan was adopted by the DCOA board in March 2016. TIP conducted an evaluation of the first year of the plan’s implementation and presented a scorecard to the Abilene City Council in March 2017.