Improving Texas’ workforce was the main topic acknowledged by local mayors during their visit to Texas Tech.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope and Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson visited the Tech community at 10:30 a.m. on March 21, at the Innovation Hub.
As a businessman and Tech graduate himself, Pope said he knows firsthand the importance of expanding the workforce and creating job opportunities as well as the strides it takes toward innovation.
“In Lubbock we have 50,000 college students,” Pope said. “A big part of why I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about is how we create an environment where business thrives in our community so they can continue to invest in our community.”
With the aid of the Innovation Hub and its team, including its manager Carleigh Smith, Pope said he hopes for students and citizens to be able to pursue business so Lubbock can continue to grow.
“I think Texas Tech has a great support system in place,” Smith said. “At the Innovation Hub, we’re here to assist people who want to launch their own companies or commercialize their research.”
When given the chance to speak to the crowd, Nelson said there is a need for fostering a sense of community in the workforce and plan for the future as rural cities in Texas often times must solve their own problems.
“When we put our heads together, we can solve problems easier,” Nelson said. “When we collaborate, ideas get shared and taxpayer dollars can go further. What we really need to have a vision for is how we keep our own kids here to be our future business owners, to be our future workforce.”
While touring Lubbock’s hotspots of innovation, Nelson and Pope said they hope to learn as much as they can about the contributions Lubbock and its schools are making to unify.
“I’m hoping to share ideas about what Lubbock is doing to develop their workforce,” Nelson said. “A lot of it is information exchange and getting to meet people that are actually doing this work here in Lubbock and seeing how we can apply that in Amarillo.”
A part of the information exchange Nelson said she sought is the general consensus on the Innovation Hub’s benefits. Due to the contributions of the Innovation Hub Director Kimberly Gramm to build a similar facility in Amarillo, she said she wants to learn more about the Innovation Hub.
“I want to see what it looks like, I want to talk to Kim, (about) the challenges they had getting it started, keeping it open, the benefits from your folk’s point of view to the business community,” Nelson said.
Along with Nelson’s support of the Innovation Hub, Pope said he wishes to develop closer relationships with Texas as a whole.
“Only 15 percent of Texans live west of I-35,” Pope said. “That’s a vast area rich in resources, but we have to remind the rest of Texas that we exist.”
In addition to Pope’s work to build better state relations, Nelson said she hopes for an environment in which West Texas as a whole can come together.
“Any knowledge we can share that creates shortcuts or efficiencies shortens timelines because we’re all impatient about seeing progress happen,” Nelson said. “One of our superpowers that we don’t recognize is that we think regionally in West Texas. We need to empower ourselves to use the influence we have for a bigger impact, think of ourselves as the West Texas region and we’ll go further.”