Callie Taylor, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
Episode 33 | February 5, 2019
As the Economic Development Director for Clean Technologies at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Callie Taylor is growing the clean tech ecosystem in Central Texas. She explains why Austin is a hub for these innovative companies, shares Austin’s secret to attracting businesses, and shows us how Opportunity Austin 4.0 is creating a better future for the region.
Callie Taylor’s Road to the Chamber
Callie Taylor is a sixth-generation Central Texan from a small town west of Dripping Springs called Henly, which doesn’t even have a stoplight. Growing up, she always believed that sustainability and being a good environmental citizen is essential. Her husband began working for an energy company called Green Mountain, and he loved it. When NRG bought Green Mountain, they hired Callie to help start their home solar division.
It was an incredible opportunity for her. “We thought we were changing the world,” she says, “and it was just the most awesome thing to be a part of.”
The role fueled Taylor’s passion, and she knew that she wanted to continue her career in alternative energy. Later she was recommended for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and continues in the Director of Economic Development for Clean Technologies position today.
What Does an Economic Development Director Do?
Economic development directors work with companies that are looking to expand or relocate into an area. The director helps the companies with anything from researching information about the area to locating a place for their facility. The director is there to assist “from A to Z” in getting them established.
The role includes both responding to inquiries from businesses and proactive outreach. Callie and her team travel to different market throughout the year to connect with various companies that would be a good fit with Austin and the Greater Austin Region.
Clean Tech in Austin
A large part of the Austin Chamber’s work is with companies who are looking to move to Austin, but that isn’t the end of the story. Once the company is established in Austin, Taylor and her team personally found out what resources it has and what it needs to continue to thrive, grow, and expand in Austin. The goal is to not only support individual companies, but also to create thriving business ecosystems in the area.
Taylor’s has been focused on clean technology companies. She explains that Austin is a premier clean technology hub, especially because of the city’s broader reputation for information technology (IT) talent. People traditionally think of the clean technology or “clean tech” industry as limited to wind, solar, and renewable energy. However, the definition of clean tech is expanding to encompass battery storage, LED lighting, and other technology driven areas.
Opportunity Austin 4.0
Opportunity Austin is a five-county economic development vehicle that is run through the Austin Chamber of Commerce. A group of local business individuals started the program in 2004 to protect against future downward business cycles. These individuals understood that regional growth, might it be in San Marcos or Dripping Springs, was going to benefit all of us. Taylor says that Opportunity Austin’s overall goal is to promote economic prosperity throughout the greater Austin region.
“Opportunity Austin isn’t just geared towards job creation or business,” says Taylor. “It’s geared towards everyone.”
Taylor explains how Opportunity Austin reaches everyone. The program works with local school districts to create training programs that will help the workforce of tomorrow develop skills. They work with airports try and bring more flights into the community. Opportunity Austin works with every possible organization they can to be prepared for the growth that is coming and ensure they are doing so in a thoughtful manner that helps everyone.
Bobby Jenkins of ABC Home & Commercial Services, the Chamber’s Austinite of the Year in 2017, is one of many local figures who volunteer their time to promote the Chamber’s message across the region. Taylor praises the Chamber’s Board of Directors and Austin’s business leaders who are “working with us day in and day out – they’re our voice.”
What Brings Businesses to Austin – And Keeps Them Here
Taylor says the number one reason companies want to stay in Austin is the people. The warmth, welcoming attitude of the community, and talented workforce have attracted these businesses to Austin.
That speaks directly to the goals of Opportunity Austin’s initiatives as they expand educational and workforce opportunities in Austin. Opportunity Austin 4.0 has volunteers and programs to match training and career opportunities for students in both direct-to-college and direct-to-work efforts. Those programs range from assistance with college financial aid applications to a Del Valle ISD STEM facility that provides hands-on access to manufacturing skills. The Chamber is working to simultaneously help children, local businesses, and the community as a whole.
Partners in Clean Tech
“It takes a village, not just one player,” says Taylor, “that helps support the regional economy.”
Taylor explains that they don’t just work with the city of Austin but 17 communities in the five-county region. The teams that she works with include Austin Energy, City of Austin, University of Texas, Austin Technology Incubator, and CleanTX (the sponsor of Clean Energy Beers at Uncle Billy’s, approved by host Kyle Frazier).
Another key partner is Pecan Street, a nationally recognized clean technology research and development organization. Pecan Street promotes the acceleration of water and energy innovation using big data collected at the Mueller smart grid development in East Austin.
South by Southwest (SXSW) is another excellent and uniquely-Austin opportunity showcase technology companies. The exposure is excellent for the industry and for Austin, giving Taylor and her team a chance to show companies why Austin is a great place to do business.
Taylor loves her job because she gets to meet with smart people who are doing amazing things. She encourages businesses to learn more about Opportunity Austin and to know that the Chamber is here for you. “We want to learn about what you’re doing,” she says. “We want to hear about how we can help you grow.”