During the annual State of the City Address on February 6, leaders from the City of Abilene and Taylor County emphasized the area's collaborative spirit, the various entities pledging support and showcasing active efforts toward a brighter future.
Returning to a live, in-person meeting after a hiatus during COVID-19, the event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Abilene Downtown Convention Center focused on the Abilene City Council’s Strategic Goals under the banner of “Building Community Together.”
Comments from the City’s community collaborators showcased a desire to craft Abilene and Taylor County’s future as a team, each emphasizing the need to work together to maximize success.
County Commits to Future Growth
Taylor County Judge Phil Crowley expressed enthusiasm for Abilene's role as a vital force in Taylor County. Emphasizing the importance of a strong Abilene for a robust Taylor County, he pledged support for the City's growth initiatives in harmony with County’s singular goals.
“The thing about change is you can either stick your head in the sand and be a bystander, or you can be a champion of that growth and change and try to shape it,” Crowley said. “In 2024 the County is definitely going to be a champion and not a bystander.”
A native of Abilene, Judge Crowley expressed unparalleled excitement about the City's future, anticipating continued surprises that will resonate beyond state borders.
“I’ve never been more excited about what’s going on in Abilene and Taylor County,” he said. “And, I just can’t wait to keep going. I think we’ve been surprising people all along and I think we’re going to continue to surprise people around the state and even the country.”
Abilene ISD Emphasizes Community Connection
Joe Waldron, Associate Superintendent for Operations with Abilene Independent School District, shared the district’s commitment to connecting learners and community.
“In Abilene ISD, our vision statement is ‘To equip learners for their brightest future,’” he said, adding that AISD was “proud to be the heartbeat” that connects the City and school district in pursuit of such goals.
Waldron highlighted Abilene ISD's role in providing quality education as the foundation for students' future success.
“For each family that we serve, we provide this opportunity to change generations from this moment forward, by providing them the best quality education we can,” he said. “That education is the building block of their future - to be whatever they want, whenever they want, or whatever path they choose to go on.”
Wylie Wins, Abilene Wins
Wylie Independent School District Superintendent Joey Light highlighted the importance of educational opportunities in attracting new residents.
He showcased Wylie ISD’s sustained growth and expressed gratitude for community support in passing a recent election to provide facilities.
Light affirmed the district's commitment to providing a top-tier quality of life.
“One of the most important things that people look to when they are coming to a community is what educational opportunities there are for their kids,” he said. “And, so, not only do you want to have strong academics, but you want to have a well-rounded program.”
Light said he felt that the quality of life offered through Wylie ISD “is one of the best in the State of Texas.”
“That’s everything from the academics to the extracurricular opportunities,” he said. “We’re just really proud of what we bring to the table.”
He acknowledged healthy community support and pledged readiness to accommodate an increasing student population.
“We are just really excited because there’s a whole lot more coming, and we’re trying to get ready for all of those folks,” he said.
Chamber’s Goals Align With City’s
Doug Peters, Abilene Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, emphasized the Chamber’s role in fostering public-private partnerships for more than 115 years.
He highlighted the business community's alignment with the city's goals and the Chamber's individual commitment to collaborative efforts for economic growth.
“Because of that public/private partnership and this Chamber’s commitment to be collaborative, cooperative, and a good partner, a reliable partner - it means that this business community is absolutely in-step with the City,” he said.
Such an attitude should ensure Abilene is “the best place on planet Earth for business,” Peters said.
Peters outlined the Chamber's multifaceted approach as a business advocacy organization, including efforts by the Military Affairs Committee, the Abilene Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Abilene Cultural Affairs Council.
All are part of an overall effort to help improve quality of life and strengthen and grow the area economy, he said.
The Chamber is actively promoting the Abilene story on a national scale, Peters said, advocating for the city as the ideal place for businesses, families, and education.
DCOA Seeks Growth, Prosperity For All
Misty Mayo, President and CEO of the Development Corporation of Abilene, underscored the pivotal role of economic growth in shaping Abilene's future.
Mayo emphasized the significance of the City Council and Abilene's leadership prioritizing economic development, crucial for attracting and retaining businesses.
“Companies that call Abilene home, and companies that may in the future call Abilene home, want to know that we’re a business-friendly community,” she said. “Because of that, having a priority of economic growth is absolutely critical.”
The DCOA's strategic efforts align with a broader vision to create a vibrant and prosperous future for all of Abilene and Taylor County, she said, highlighting a commitment to reinvesting sales tax revenues back into the community.
That initiative, viewed as a partnership between existing and new businesses, reflects the collective effort to stimulate economic growth, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the City's overall advancement, she said.
“Every day, I get the opportunity to create a brighter future for Abilene – to help create jobs for our families, to help create jobs for our future generations, to help truly build the future Abilene,” Mayo said.