Amarillo has just witnessed yet another example of the wisdom its voters exhibited in 1989 when they approved the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.
AEDC has pledged $69 million to Texas Tech University as an inducement for the construction of a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.
For the past 29 years, AEDC has had its share of successes of varying degrees of significance. Has it batted a thousand? No. There have been some misfires. But the Tech vet school initiative is a big deal that over time is going to rank up there with another huge catch that AEDC managed to reel in.
I refer to the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly operation along Airport Boulevard, next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. AEDC kicked in about $45 million in 1998 to bring Bell back to Amarillo from Fort Worth.
Critics of that initiative bitched out loud about it. But the funding mechanism that AEDC uses was put to good use when Bell decided to build the assembly plant where it puts together the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft; the Bell operation has expanded as well, with work on various military helicopters.
AEDC collects money from a half-cent sales tax derived from the purchase of goods and services. Over many years, AEDC has built a significant fund that it invests to allow it to grow and which AEDC then uses to lure prospective businesses to Amarillo — and to the greater Panhandle region.
The Hilmar Cheese project is another AEDC project that has paid off handsomely for the region. Yes, the plant is in Dalhart and AEDC’s involvement in granting public money did attract some negative response. Then-AEDC head Buzz David dismissed the criticism, noting correctly that the jobs created by the cheese operation would ripple across the Panhandle and, yes, into Amarillo. And they have.
Amarillo voters delivered a visionary endorsement at a time when the city — indeed, the region and the state — were going through a difficult economic period. The late 1980s was an unhappy period in Amarillo, but the creation of AEDC perhaps demonstrated a community’s need to roll the dice on a new endeavor that at the time presented only the promise of a better day.
That promise has been delivered.