AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — “We are open to anyone who wants to come and help. Anyone who wants to come and learn, and we want your participation.”
That’s the message of the Amarillo Area Black Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 2013, The core mission of the AABCC, according to President Timothy Gassaway, is helping business owners, especially new business owners obtain financing such as grants and loans. The organization also serves to help business owners build relationships with banks and other resources.
“What we wanted to do, was open up to people who have a desire to learn about businesses,” Gassaway said. “Maybe start a business in the future, it’s a way for them to come and join and get properly trained, as far as banking and financial planning.”
Gassaway said as the country starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people looking to go the entrepreneurial route is increasing. He added that for anyone in the Amarillo area who is planning to start their own business, the key is planning. Do plenty of homework up front, research your business and potential customers, ask plenty of questions, and network. Just as important, give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead.
“A lot of opportunities that are going to happen here in the Amarillo area, to be honest with you, are 18-24 months out, as far as when you need to be ready” he said. “There are some short term things that businesses can benefit from, but really, if you really look at it, you’ve got 18-24 months to get ready to access those opportunities. So now is a good time to plan.”
There are things happening currently in North Heights to revitalize the community, like the North Heights Linen Service, which is scheduled to open in July. It’s forecasted to produce over 8 million pounds of healthcare laundry per year, once it reaches full operational capacity. Other revitalization efforts going on, Gassaway said, includes re-zoning various areas of North Heights to improve and encourage economic development.
“Anytime you have industry coming to your immediate area, it has the potential to bring jobs, of course,” he said. “As more things come, you could get more restaurants, etc. It will grow the area.”
But, Gassaway emphasized, revitalizing north Amarillo shouldn’t be limited to just improving and revitalizing North Heights. North Amarillo includes both the Hamlet and River Road communities, which are just as important in the economic development mission.
Another key part of the AABCC mission, Gassaway told us, is not just setting up improvements and development for five or ten years down the road. The vision must be long term. And the biggest way to do that, is to improve the infrastructure of North Amarillo as a whole. That will take input from the city, Potter County, and most of all, community residents.
“We want the north side to be as vibrant as any other part of the city. Now, there are some responsibilities of the local communities, and that’s where the beautification comes in,” he said. “People have to be able to drive into neighborhoods and feel safe, feel like if they put their investment into the area, that their investment is going to be protected. So there’s ownership on everybody.”
That’s the driving force behind AABCC’s Yard of the Month program, in which neighborhood residents with aesthetically pleasing yards, win a certificate and a Yard sign. That’s just a small way, Gassaway said, the community can work towards improving the overall picture.
Some of the economic development projects AABCC is currently working on is setting up drone classes for neighborhood youth, including how to fly a drone and obtain an FAA Drone Pilot’s license. Financial literacy classes are also in development.
To learn more about the Amarillo Area Black Chamber of Commerce, including how to become a member and a community event calendar, visit their website, or call 806-410-2600.