There are plenty of reasons Texas ranks No. 2 among all 50 states in "America's Top States for Business 2016," on CNBC's scorecard on state economic climates. Areas where Texas stands out include its economy (where it topped the rankings), infrastructure, technology & innovation, workforce, access to capital, and business friendliness.
Start-up companies and businesses relocating to the Greater Amarillo area will find all those things in abundance, along with an incredibly supportive business community.
Support for business is nothing new for West Texas, or the state as a whole, says Bob McDonald, a professor of marketing and supply chain management at Texas Tech University's Rawls College of Business. When he moved to the state four days after graduating college in 1976, "I was amazed at the pervasive attitude toward business success that existed in Texas," he says. "It is deeply rooted in our culture. We celebrate the entrepreneur who succeeds. We welcome anyone with a good idea and a work ethic. That is not the case in other parts of the country."
Support spans many sectors
It's an attitude reflected throughout the business community in the Amarillo area, from lending institutions to civic organizations to academia. "The Amarillo community supports local business with a strong Economic Development Corporation, an internationally renowned incubation center (WT Enterprise Center), and a Small Business Development Center that helps entrepreneurs start businesses," says Amy Henderson, a business loan officer at Amarillo National Bank and an active member of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Business Council and the advisory boards of WT Enterprise Center and the Amarillo SBDC.
Henderson points to local educational institutions like Amarillo College, West Texas A&M University, and Texas Tech University as a major source of support for the business community. The schools work closely with area employers to develop programs to prepare their students for the workforce. For example, initiatives like the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center provide specialized hands-on training in health care professions like pharmacy and nursing, two areas where demand out paces supply.
Even banking is different in West Texas. "Amarillo has great community banks like ANB (Amarillo National Bank) that have the same suite of business products as the large regional banks," Henderson says. "But in Amarillo, banking is more than a financial transaction; it's built on trust, community, and personal relationships. Amarillo community banks are local to the Texas Panhandle area. We support local borrowers and have the flexibility to adapt to Amarillo's business climate. We've weathered the storms of tough economic conditions and banking regulations."
Businesses work together
Amarillo area businesses work together to help support each other in many different ways. A good example is the Panhandle Workforce Development Board. The majority of members in this group are private-sector employers, but the board also includes representatives from community-based organizations, labor, economic development agencies, and other sectors.
The board's vision is to establish and enhance a workforce delivery system that serves the needs of area employers, job seekers, and other constituents with efficient and effective services. It works to achieve that goal by promoting collaboration among stakeholders, creating partnerships with other community organizations, and focusing on workforce issues. It also supports regional economic growth and economic self-sufficiency.
Professor McDonald spent 15 years working for other entrepreneurs, then started and ran his own business for five years before entering academia, so his assessment of West Texas's supportive business community is more than just theoretical. "I can't over-emphasize the pro-business attitude here," he says. "Having witnessed the stifling climates businesses endure in other states, I appreciate what we have here."
Of particular note about the West Texas business community, he adds, is the absence of what is known as the "tall poppy" syndrome, which is the tendency to discredit or disparage successful folks. "You won't find that here," he says. "Rather, there is a celebration of successful entrepreneurs."