By Mary Sell • December 14, 2010
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce is
looking forward by looking 800 miles west.
Chamber leaders want to emulate in Montgomery
the recent economic turnaround in Austin, Texas,
that has created more than 100,000 new jobs and
greatly increased home values.
Gary Farmer, the immediate past chairman of the
Greater Austin Economic Development Corp. and a
small-business owner, was the keynote speaker of
the chamber's annual luncheon Monday. He spoke
about the strategy that brought 124,000 new jobs to
the Austin area in five years.
Farmer said Montgomery has a "treasure trove" of
"You guys have the assets; you just have to put it all
together," he told the crowd of about 800 chamber
members and business leaders at the Renaissance
Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center in
Austin and Montgomery have used the same
consultant company for their development plans.
Last month, a group of about 50 business and
political leaders from Montgomery visited Austin to
begin work on the chamber's next five-year plan.
The chamber's current five-year plan, Imagine a
Greater Montgomery, ends in 2011. Its five pillars
are improving education; strengthening the
economy; transforming Montgomery's image;
embracing diversity and enhancing leadership; and
strengthening the chamber.
Farmer is mentoring leaders in the River Region.
"Gary's leadership and vision really helps us set the
stage for our next phase of Imagine a Greater
Montgomery. His accomplishments have made
such a tremendous impact on Austin and his work
is a shining example for Montgomery to follow,"
said Nimrod T. Frazer Jr., the 2010 chairman of the
chamber's board of directors, in a written statement.
Farmer's tips ranged from improving the city's
image to seeking out new businesses. Austin had
144 corporate relocation announcements in the
first five years of its plan.
"Everyone I've talked to over the past couple of
months has shown a commitment to grow
Montgomery," Farmer said. "I think you're on the
He cautioned leaders to pay attention to existing
businesses while courting new companies.
"'Cause if you're not, I'm going to be over here
talking to them and trying to get them to come to
Texas," he said.
Monday's luncheon, the chamber's signature
annual event, also included a transition in
leadership. Larry Puckett, owner of Larry Puckett
Chevrolet, will be the chairman of the chamber's
board of directors for 2011. Puckett, of Prattville,
will replace Frazer on Jan. 1.
Puckett encouraged attendees of the meeting to
participate in Montgomery's revival.
"Stay involved and wake up every day and find
something for you to do to make Montgomery a
better place," he said.