Claire Gillman is a sophomore studying Economics and Social Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. She has returned to her hometown of Amarillo to intern at the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation this summer.
The high school I attended required every senior to take economics. However, my senior year, our economics teacher decided our class should review and complete a popular financial literacy curriculum, as it would be far more practical and beneficial during our transition into the “real world.”
At the time, I had no argument. My only exposure to economics had been news anchors analyzing fiscal policy or taxes, and I knew I would need to know how to budget or buy insurance. I made the assumption that I would rarely ever need or utilize economics or economics jargon.
To my own surprise, within my first six months as a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., I declared Social Entrepreneurship as my major, with an economic development concentration. During that same year, I declared Economics as my second major. Now, the summer after my first year of college, I find myself working as the summer intern for the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.
Being a student, I am consistently asked where I call home. Though most people are familiar with Dallas, Austin, Houston or even Lubbock, they know very little about Amarillo. Only a few could find it on a map; many have never heard of our Texas Panhandle community.
Though I am not ashamed of Amarillo, I cannot say that I have ever felt a sense of pride when I tell people where I am from. Most of my high school friends and peers only ever talked about moving away and instead of appreciating what Amarillo had to offer, they were blinded by what was insufficient. Looking back, we would have never even allowed ourselves to be surprised.
I admittedly know very little about economic development, but working at the AEDC, I am already receiving hands-on, outside-of-the-classroom experience. After just three weeks, I have realized many different jobs and aspects that contribute to the management of this organization and the execution of its projects.
I have also learned about primary businesses and job creation, toured the local Bell Helicopter manufacturing facility and have witnessed the power of partnerships at the AEDC amongst the city’s business community.
Working closely with Reagan Hales, the AEDC’s director of marketing and communications, I have been assisting with a campaign that introduces “the real Amarillo” to those outside of our community. We are working on a campaign segment that will highlight small businesses, community organizations, entrepreneurs and community leaders. The campaign was designed to celebrate prosperity, success and growth in Amarillo, and to offer local residents a platform to share their stories, their experiences as well as their advice.
Originally, this project was intended to let the outside world #MeetAmarillo. Personally, as it has progressed, I see it as a way to introduce the people of Amarillo to Amarillo, to the community we often take for granted, and to instill a sense of renewed pride for our city.
After only a few weeks, I have discovered that I love this job because it is forcing me to recognize, and really appreciate, the community I never thought existed. Amarillo has a thriving entrepreneurial scene, successful, impassioned small businesses, and impressive manufacturing facilities, such as Bell Helicopter.
We have a burgeoning downtown, an abundance of excellent restaurants and new, cool coffee shops. Our arts scene boasts an opera, a ballet, a theatre, a symphony, a wealth of local musicians, artists, creators, a museum, and educational programs that will continue to grow and supply artistic outlets.
I recognize that the work ethic of the CEOs and employees I’ve met is to be admired and applauded. I have seen the passion for our community driving the AEDC to create jobs and empower our city. As a result, I am beginning to appreciate the vibrant community that Amarillo has become and the role economic development plays in improving our community.
Moving forward, I hope I will continue to learn more about how a social science, such as economics, can best be utilized to benefit a community of people, and about the partnerships and relationships that Amarillo, and any good business, is established.
Please keep an eye out for my blogs this summer, as I share more about what I am discovering about my hometown.