A Postcard from Texas

Howdy! (Hello, how are you?) I just returned from Austin, Texas where I spent the better part of this week with my colleagues from other state business roundtables in our semi-annual gathering. During that time I learned that Texas is bigger’n Sam Houston’s hat; hotter’n a skillet biscuit; and drier’n a tumbleweed. It has 25 million residents and all of them drive pick up trucks, eat inspired Tex-Mex food, wear cowboy boots, and speak in a straight forward, honest manner. They are big in every conceivable way and are unapologetically patriotic about Texas and Woo-hoo! (I’m so proud!) about it every chance they get.

When we weren’t visiting the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum (45,000,000 pieces of paper); walking past UT Austin’s Texas Memorial Stadium where the Longhorns play football, (it can hold roughly 1/6 of all Vermonters at a time: capacity of 100,119 seats); and touring the state capitol, which has more floor space than any other (360,000 square feet) and is built of beautiful “Texas Rose” pink granite, we were talking economic development, pension reform, and education.

The Roundtable execs each shared similar stories of their state’s economic recovery ~ regaining ground at various speeds and worried about the domestic impacts from the EC’s financial crisis and Congressional inertia. There was widely held agreement that state rankings on economic development only tell a part of the story and that true judgment comes by experiencing the whole package: the old perception versus reality of a state’s attractiveness as a business destination. Even Texas, that former sovereign nation, (Woo-hoo!) which ranks #1 (Woo-hoo!) on a handful of measures including job creation, has its drawbacks as we know. It’s all in how the state spins its own narrative, and we all do it.

We all complained about lack of adequate workforce above all other shortcomings ~ Anglo-Americans simply aren’t producing enough children, but Mexican-Americans are ~ and all shared a common priority of investing in education for the long haul. At the same time, however, some colleagues expressed concern with “business fatigue” when it comes to advocating for investments in education, not because it’s a lesser priority, but because results are not happening fast enough.

The meeting adjourned as they all do, with an update on each Roundtable’s activities and pressing issues. For me, I encouraged my brothers and sisters to do their holiday shopping online in Vermont. And they pledged to do so.