The year 1989 proved to be a time of tumult and triumph for Amarillo.
Voters rebelled against the City Commission (as it was called then) and tossed most of its members out. Times were tough then. The economy was in the tank, the city was fighting with prominent businessman Boone Pickens, who had gotten angry at the local newspaper over its coverage of certain issues.
City voters, though, did have the good sense to approve the formation of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, a body tasked with spending a portion of sales tax revenue on job-creation projects for the city and the surrounding region.
Voters said “yes” to AEDC and it came into being.
It’s been collecting a half-cent of sales tax every year since, building a handsome investment fund for the past quarter century.
It has had some notable successes and some stinging defeats over the years.
The big daddy of the successes, of course, was the return of Bell Helicopter to Amarillo. Bell/Textron set up huge aircraft assembly operation next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after AEDC dangled about #45 million in inducements to the company to relocate its assembly operations from Fort Worth to Amarillo. Suffice to say the good folks of Cowtown were none too pleased with what they thought amounted to corporate bribery of a company using public money.
Bell came here, began assembling the V-22 Osprey for the Marine Corps. The site has grown in the years since then, adding hundreds of jobs.
AEDC also lured Hilmar Cheese to Dalhart, another venture that drew criticism from local folks who couldn’t grasp why AEDC was spending sales tax money on something built way up yonder in Dallam County. Well, that project has been a boon to the region as well.
Not all the projects have panned out. But all in all, the AEDC has provided an innovative inducement to companies looking to expand their payrolls or to relocate from other locations to the High Plains of Texas.
Billboards are cropping up around town saluting AEDC. TV spots are airing that do the same.
All in all, the AEDC has helped the city stay afloat while other communities have struggled during tough times.
That’s reason enough to offer a good word.