by: Nicole Barriors / Austin American-Statesman
The Round Rock Chamber secured nine economic development projects this year, which will collectively generate just over 1,400 jobs and create just under $100 million in new capital investment for the city.
Mike Odom, Round Rock Chamber president and CEO, noted that particular success among others in 2015 and chamber priorities for 2016 at the chamber’s last Power Lunch of the year Dec. 8 at the Heritage Center at the Dell Diamond.
“We really have focused on trying — like we have for many, many years — on producing economic development to help grow this community, help create wealth, grow jobs,” Odom said.
A look at 2015
Odom discussed a new strategic plan the chamber launched in February to improve the efficiency of the chamber and how they work with the community, he said.
The strategic plan outlined initiatives to unify the organization through clearer communication, an updated website and internal reorganization.
“We’re not completely there yet, but we’re pretty close,” Odom said of the reorganization.
This year the chamber also defined and supported the mission of the organization, he said.
“Just as a lot of different organizations, some continue to evolve, (and) we had kind of evolved and had gotten away from what our mission was,” Odom said. “We were kind of out there in a forest not knowing where we should go.”
Odom said this was where the most significant part of the plan came into play.
He said the chamber needed to transform themselves into a “true economic generation organization.”
“Our focus each and every day needs to be on producing the economic impact — generate this economic activity that allows all of you to be successful,” Odom said to the crowd.
Out of the chamber’s mission came “eight pillars of economic generation,” Odom said, that led to the organization’s accomplishments that were achieved in 2015.
The eight pillars include business attraction, business retention, economic data, business climate, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, talent development and chamber enrichment.
In February the chamber outlined the city’s workforce as its No. 1 issue, he said. The city’s unemployment rate is 3.2 percent, which means almost everyone who can and wants to work is working, he said.
“If we’re going to bring 1,400 jobs, we got to make sure those companies have the people to fill them, and not just fill them but fill them with the right skills,” Odom said.
From this priority came the development of the chamber’s WROC Strategy, or Workforce Realization Occurring Cooperatively Strategy, he said.
Through focus groups and feedback, the chamber developed a roadmap to develop the city’s workforce.
The WROC, launched in July, outlines four critical areas: replenishing skilled trades, implementing accelerated learning opportunities, increasing direct-to-college participation and supporting ancillary service capabilities.
By publishing a monthly economic indicators report, the chamber wants the business community to use the information to make more informed decisions.
“We’re going to use this as a foundation to continue to grow,” Odom said.
The chamber’s externship program, in partnership with Round Rock school district this year, “took the actual educator out of the classroom, put them into the company and let them learn about things that are related to their subject matter,” he said.
This program allowed teachers to take that experience back to their students.
The chamber facilitated six externships this year and hope to have 20 participants in the program next year and about 35 the following year, he said.
Over 130 business retention and expansion visits were completed this year, which is about double what other communities in the region do, Odom said.
The chamber also advocated for the successful adoption of triple freeport tax exemption status. The freeport tax is a property tax on goods and materials used in manufacturing of products to be shipped out of the state no later than after 175 days.
Also, Odom said the implementation of the WilCo Economic Development Partnership brings cities in Williamson County together to “talk in one voice” and advocate for regional businesses growth.
A rebranding initiative this year led to a new logo, website and business attraction video to boost the organization’s image and communication with the area, Odom said.
The chamber also launched a small business guide, is developing a community entrepreneurship strategy and created the Round Rock Chamber Foundation nonprofit organization to seek grant funding to support workforce initiatives.
Looking forward to 2016
Odom said the chamber is aiming to develop eight economic development wins next year, which will grow more jobs and more revenue for the community.
“As the economy nationwide improves, the competitive market is going to get more competitive,” Odom said. “Communities are going to be able to go head-to-head with us more than they have in the past.”
Odom said in the coming year the chamber will partner with business leaders, city leaders, developers and engineers to develop a future growth strategy for the community.
In order to meet the demands for a skilled workforce the chamber plans to create a strategy next year to expand the accelerated learning and certification programs in Round Rock.
In order to bring more executives to the city to fill roles in growing companies, the chamber will aim to develop a suite of executive recruitment resources. The suite may consist of tours, information about services offered in Round Rock and other resources, he said.
The chamber’s top priorities for 2016 are to:
• generate eight economic development project wins
• construct a community future growth strategy
• create a strategy to expand the accelerated learning and certification programs in Round Rock
• develop a suite of executive recruitment resources
• further implement the eight pillars of economic generation strategy
Source: Round Rock Chamber