Look around you, and you will see signs that the Chamber’s vision of Greater Gainesville as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity is materializing in our region. Yet we realize that though we have made progress as a region, much work remains to be done.
Studying and experiencing regions with similar attributes, assets and challenges is one way to move our region closer to the bright future we know is possible here. That is why a delegation of more than 40 local leaders in business, education, government, workforce and the nonprofit sector traveled to Austin, Texas, last week for the 2016 Intercity Leadership Exchange.
These leaders learned about Austin’s transformation into a global hub for technology companies, music lovers and much more, while preserving its essence and encouraging residents and visitors alike to “Keep Austin Weird.”
After being welcomed by the President of the Austin Chamber, Mike Rollins, delegates heard and studied multiple issues and opportunities that resemble those we face at home. Mayor Steve Adler’s perspective on income disparity, Austin Transportation Director Rob Spillers’ thoughts on transportation issues, and the history of downtown redevelopment from the Downtown Austin Alliance, are just a few examples of presentations that provided ideas and concepts to enhance attendees’ perception of what is possible in Greater Gainesville, as well as perspective on how Austin charted a new, innovative and enriching course that has increased prosperity for its residents while maintaining its unique personality.
By and large, we learned that the common denominator of Austin’s achievements is employer community leadership as a catalyst for community collaboration. Our employer community is uniquely positioned to lead on many fronts, such as education, which in our community has before it the challenge of preparing students to perform the 40,000 vacant jobs in Gainesville.
Austin also has adopted a practice of leveraging technology in as many ways and areas as possible–education, transportation, and more–to streamline processes and maximize outcomes. For instance, we learned that Austin schools have embraced technology in ways that allow them to more effectively communicate with students about education and career–and the steps they need to take to seize them.
Austin’s Transportation Department has harnessed technology to allow it to address traffic issues on-demand, in real time in an effort to mitigate traffic woes. Austin has embraced its richness in music and culture–both elements that predate its economic resurgence–and leveraged them to make itself a global destination for entertainment executives to identify the newest and best talent.
These and other undertakings have helped Austin achieve the economic opportunities and advantages it enjoys today. In doing so, the undertakings have also led to the critical mass of people and economic activity needed to create and sustain Austin’s vibrant downtown.
In coming weeks, look for more on the insights that members of our delegation received while in Austin, and how those insights informed their various perspectives on what is possible here in Gainesville.
Photos from the Intercity Leadership Exchange can be found here.