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Forming the Austin Economic Development Council, 1961


After about four years of "educating" the Austin community on the value to them of broadening our economic base, we launched our effort to form the proper organization to accomplish this goal, and also to finance the effort. It still wasn't easy. We decided to form the organization totally within the Austin Chamber of Commerce, but to keep the funds collected completely separate and dedicated to the program adopted by the new Council

With the concurrence of the "Administrative Board" we adopted our program of action, and went out to sell it. We determined that our best bet was to get all the heads of financial institutions to sign on, because almost everybody in town owed at least one of them some money. At that time, there was no branch banking, so our total banking community, both regular commercial banks and savings and loan institutions, numbered only thirteen, In almost all instances, to build a home, get a business loan, finance a car or refrigerator, you had to see one of these people.

Since I knew all of the "bankers" personally. I was to be one of the team to call on them. The Chamber Chairman, Ed St. John of Duplex Advertising, was the next logical person. We also chose J. Neils Thompson, from the Balcones Research Center, since he understood "high tech," and could better explain our goal to these gentlemen. Leon Stone, President of Austin's largest bank, was already on our side, so (as I recall), I scheduled two appointments every Monday morning for six weeks with the remaining twelve banking Presidents.

We did well as we went down our list, but knew we had two tough selling jobs with the heads of our two largest Savings and Loans. Both were in their more mature years, and very "comfortably situated." These were Mr. Fred Morse of Mutual Savings, and Mr. A. B. Shierlow of First Federal Savings. It took a couple of calls, and a little help from some of their old buddies and board members (and a little German with Mr. Shierlow), to get full support. We were asking not only that they endorse the program, but also that we could use their name as members of the Finance Committee.

Having an adopted plan, and the key leaders support, we quickly printed the new letterhead (that we had already designed) for the Economic Development Council. On the left side of the letterhead was a list of the Finance Board with Leon Stone as Chairman, and every other banker and his institution shown. This was then used to raise money for the new Austin Economic Development Council.

And it worked pretty well. We asked businesses in the community to make a three-year pledge and wound up with $35,000 per year for the first three years. Doesn't sound like much, but at the time my salary was about $8,500 a year - which I thought was pretty good. I didn't add any staff at the time, but it did give us some money for materials, promotion, and travel. History over the last fifty years shows that it served us well.

Vic Mathias - January 5, 2005