(KTRE) - The Chamber of Commerce for Nacogdoches and Lufkin will unite their lobbying efforts in the state capital ahead of the 2021 legislative session.
Next year, the two cities will hold a Lufkin-Angelina County/Nacogdoches County SFA Day in Austin. A shorter title is in the works.
Research showed Tara Watson-Watkins that 2007 was the last time Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties traveled to Austin together.
“I don’t know why it stopped,” said Tara Watson-Watkins, president and CEO of the Angelina County-Lufkin Chamber of Commerce.
Years later, the Angelina County-Lufkin Chamber President and CEO, as well as her counterpart Wayne Mitchell at the Nacogdoches County Chamber know rivalry can be taken too far.
“That’s fine in the world of sports and other activities, but in the world of economic development we need to be partners,” said Mitchell.
“It’s time we go back as one voice," Watson-Watkins added.
A year of planning begins for the two chambers to show a united front in Austin before legislators and state agency brass.
“Regionalism is such a big word right now and so to be able to work together to bring in industry to Lufkin-Nacogdoches, Central, Diboll, Zavalla," said Watson-Watkins. "It impacts all of us.”
Collaboration priorities include I-69, education funding, health care issues and the return of an old idea that failed to take off, a regional airport.
“Angelina County and Nacogdoches County need to be working on trying to see if we can attract some type of regional air service to this area so we can connect with the major hubs," said Mitchel.
Yet chamber leaders know, “we’re having to deal with those that still think that whatever is good for Lufkin, is not good for Nac and vice versa, but it’s time we bridge that gap," Watson-Watkins explained.
“I like to look at Angelina River, how it separates us. I think it unites us in many ways. I think it’s that point where we should be working together on issues," Mitchell said.
“It’s time we stop using the phrase, ‘crossing the river.’ It’s just a river. And so we have got to be able to combine forces," Watson-Watkins said.
The leaders know other Texas cities are well experienced in collaboration. They said Lufkin-Nacogdoches will work to develop the same united strategy.
The Angelina County-Lufkin chamber will be going to Austin in a few weeks, as new leaders do every year. Nacogdoches County goes during legislative sessions only.
The next session is 2021. Leaders said it’s good timing for the two cities to make the trip together.