Keeping it Local: An Interview with Kevin Carter, President & CEO of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC)
For 30 years, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) has worked with businesses to grow the jobs in our area. While most states require state approval for business development, the state of Texas offers economic development at the local level. This ability to focus on local growth gives people like AEDC President and CEO Kevin Carter the opportunity to strengthen Amarillo with businesses that will support the community and vice versa. In light of the return of the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge, we sat down with Kevin Carter to discuss the AEDC’s impact in the Texas panhandle.
What got you into the economic development industry in the first place?
It was kind of by chance. I had been working in healthcare for 14 years and had actually been laid off. There was an opening at the Plainview EDC, and I had known some people there and had worked with the Chamber in Plainview but not on the economic development side. I had the opportunity to do it on an interim basis and then it turned into a full-time position for four and a half years until I got the regional job and started working for the High Grounds of Texas.
What initially drew you to working for the AEDC?
I have been working in the region for the last 10 years in economic development and the last 5 and a half years was for a regional group. Opportunity came, and I’ve been in the Texas panhandle for the past four years, so it was a good opportunity for me and my family. I think Amarillo is one of the top economic development organizations in the state, so it was just a great opportunity overall. Plus, I think we have a lot to offer.
What services does AEDC provide for businesses?
We’ll do economic development incentives, and we’ll offer training programs through the years. We actually started “Take Root in Amarillo,” which is a live job board where companies can post jobs that pay over the living wage in Amarillo – $45,000 or more. It’s available for new and existing businesses.
How does your organization benefit both new and established businesses?
The incentives we provide to businesses are to either relocate or stay in Amarillo. We’re all about creating jobs, either through a new business or established business, and we want to expand it for them.
In what ways do you think businesses will grow as we ease out of the pandemic?
Well, we’ve been really lucky here in Amarillo. We never really have been completely shut down, which we’ve been very fortunate to not have happen. We certainly had challenges with high numbers, but I think for the most part we have done better than most parts of the country in comparison. Our recovery is not going to be as big of a recovery because we’ve been recovering basically the whole time. Our sales tax has been up 10 months in a row, which is insane because I would venture to say we’re a part of a handful of cities in the state to be able to do that. I know that some of our small businesses have struggled. Now that we’re back to 100%, I think you’re going to see those businesses that survived hopefully come back with a vengeance, especially this summer when people start traveling again.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Follow your dreams! That’s it. I think our country has been made on entrepreneurs and people willing to take risks. I’m thankful for those companies that have taken the risk as a small business or a start-up. I know it may sound cheesy, but just follow your dreams!
What’s coming up that you are most excited about?
We are relaunching the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge for the 25th year! Over the past 24 years, the Amarillo EDC and WT Enterprise Center have been able to help over 90 companies realize their business aspirations. Year #25 of the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge is going to be even better with the announcement that we’ve added five local banks as our partners – Amarillo National Bank, First United Bank, FirstBank Southwest, FirstCapital Bank of Texas, and Happy State Bank. We are super excited to have them as a part of this huge promotion we do for Amarillo and the surrounding communities. We are looking forward to the opportunity to take a good business and make them great, as well as being a part of something again that we’ve been a part of for 24 years.