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Q&A: Round Rock Chamber CEO Mike Odom

The Round Rock Chamber, under the leadership of CEO Mike Odom, continued its primary goal of strengthening the local economy in 2018 through a series of initiatives and programs. Among those were overseeing a petition to change what Odom called antiquated laws on serving alcoholic beverages in certain portions of the city. The Chamber also helped secure $30 million in local development projects that boosted the local workforce. In 2019, the Chamber will spearhead several new initiatives and programs, including a search to find its new vice president of economic development. The Leader asked Odom several questions on the Chamber’s recent successes, future priorities and the challenges ahead.

— Mike Parker, editor

What do you consider as the Chamber’s greatest successes in 2018?

Since the creation of our new strategic plan in 2014, we have been fanatically focused on delivering meaningful, measurable results.

For 2018, those results included:

  • Securing five economic development project wins that represent over 200 jobs and $30 million in capital investment
  • Promoting the skilled trades image campaign that has generated approximately 535,000 social media impressions and 350,000 video views
  • Partnering with Austin Community College and the Round Rock school district on accelerated certification programs in HVAC and plumbing that have certified 54 adults
  • Developing of our apprenticeship research and strategy
  • Leading the passage of the local option alcohol election
  • Winning the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executive’s Chamber of the Year award.
What were the biggest challenges you saw in the past year?

Far and away, the greatest challenge for this past year — as well as the near future — is our critically low unemployment rate. Our economy continues to grow and our businesses are poised to take advantage of it as long as they can find the workforce that they need.

This is why we spend as much time and resources as we do on the issue. We, as a community, have to continue to work to address it in profound ways.

What spurred the Chamber to head the initiative in changing mixed beverage laws in certain portions of the city?

Once we became aware of the inequities inherent in the law, it was a fairly easy decision to engage in it. Business climate is one of our eight pillars of economic generation, and this is a tremendous example of an unfair component of the climate significantly impacting our companies’ ability to compete effectively.

While our 2019 business plan is somewhat expansive, our top priorities are the five items that will garner the majority of our attention this year.

These priorities are to implement a business retention and expansion marketing and outreach strategy; generate six economic development project wins; initiate a community workforce assessment; execute our apprenticeship strategy; and produce a chamber awareness campaign.

These five priorities were selected for both their short- and long-term impact on ensuring Round Rock reaches it economic-generation potential.

Our team has already begun developing the implementation plans for each of these items as well as the rest of our business plan. It’s important — especially with a team of only 11 — that we program our efforts out properly.

Fortunately, we have a tremendous board that understands the value of expending our resources efficiently and effectively as to ensure the highest level of success.

Has the Chamber had any leeway in finding its vice president of economic development following Ben White’s departure in October?

What opportunities do you see in growing Round Rock’s economy?

We believe that all of our target sectors (i.e., innovative manufacturing, life sciences and health care, professional and financial services, and technology and computing) will play significant roles in growing our economy. When you consider the companies that are already here and their potential growth with the firms that we are working to attract here, it shows an extremely bright future.

Plus we are maintaining our efforts on building a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages and nurtures business ideation, creation and growth.

It will not happen overnight, but when it comes to fruition it will become a cornerstone of our economic development strategy.