Q&A With McKinney EDC's Darrell Auterson
New McKinney Economic Development Corp president and CEO Darrell Auterson is a seasoned economic development pro with over three and a half decades of experience in the field, which he plans to leverage to continue enhancing aspects of the McKinney business ecosystem. We sat down with him to discuss his passion for economic development, and to understand how it informs his approach to realizing his ambitious vision for the area.
Bisnow: What, specifically, drew you to McKinney (shown below) and what, in your opinion, makes it unique?
Darrell: The opportunity to help write the next chapter of McKinney’s incredible growth story and its reputation for quality living had a magnetic effect on me.
McKinney has an authenticity that is not found in other parts of North Texas.The historic downtown and neighborhoods combined with an eclectic vibe and immense scenic beauty help ensure there’s something to satisfy just about every taste.
Bisnow: How do you think McKinney National Airport contributes to the business environment?
Darrell: The airport is another unique asset absent from other parts of the region. Executives and select business travelers have an alternative to the hassles of traditional commercial travel. Corporate hangars and a first-class fixed-base operator facilitate point-to-point travel. The direct and indirect benefits to our local economy are significant.
Bisnow: What do you believe are McKinney’s most valuable assets?
Darrell: The airport, dedicated developers with a commitment to quality, the unrivaled quality of life that helps attract and retain the best and brightest talent, and ample room for strategic growth top the list. Our culture of innovation is an intangible asset that inspires entrepreneurship and resonates with the workforce of today and tomorrow.
Bisnow: How are local developers creatively using land to enhance McKinney?
Darrell: Developers are creating live/work/play environs with mass appeal, and, where possible, preserving and incorporating the natural beauty of our community into the landscape.
Bisnow: What are some of your personal goals in your leadership position?
Darrell: Achieving excellence in organizational operations and execution, providing exceptional customer service to our businesses and citizens, and charting an ambitious vision for quality, master planned development are at the core of my leadership philosophy.
Bisnow: What are your favorite aspects of McKinney?
Darrell: I have too many favorites to single out one in particular, so let me say that the overall dedication to quality that permeates our society on every level—work, education, residential, recreation, entertainment, etc.— has greatly enhanced my affinity for this magnificent community.
Bisnow: Give us your background. What sparked your interest in economic development?
Darrell: I’m part of a relatively small contingent that studied economic development in college and went on to pursue it in their professional lives. Most of my colleagues migrated into the profession through some other field, sometimes by chance. I set out with a deliberate purpose, majoring in the discipline in the Urban Regional Studies program at Indiana State University.
Bisnow: What do you see as the most pressing issue in the profession today?
Darrell: We really are in a rather paradoxical time, in that the things we have known historically as the bread and butter of the profession, job creation and capital investment, are changing dramatically.
We don’t know what the jobs of the future will look like. Technology is wonderful, but I could drive myself crazy trying to anticipate what the jobs of the future will entail. All I know for sure is that they won’t resemble those of our parents and grandparents.
This creates a significant challenge for the profession. How can we possibly educate and prepare the workforce of the 21st century? That’s why we as economic developers have to be innovators. It’s going to be an incredibly challenging and soul-searching era for economists, as that benchmark we’ve used for decades—how many jobs we help create—continues to change.
Bisnow: What’s the best advice you ever received that you would convey to burgeoning economic developers?
Darrell: I’ve received a lot of advice from many mentors, but the single piece that always stood out in my mind was from my first board chair in my first CEO position: “People will judge you on your deeds, not the title you carry.”
Having the title of president and CEO has nothing to do with building credibility in the profession or your community. I have to prove every day that I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do, and deliver on the promises I make to the community. I, along with my team, want to make the community better than it was when I got here. I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t trying to deliver every day on the job.
Bisnow: Can you recall a particularly memorable, challenging or humorous moment in your career?
Darrell: Early on in my career, I had to make a very big decision. I walked away from a good-paying, stable job to relocate to Southern California. I did this so I could be with my fiancé, now my wife of over 30 years, who was in the Navy. I didn’t know where I’d land, but I knew I wanted to stay in economic development.
I ended up working in Long Beach, CA, and it totally reinvigorated my career and expanded my horizons. The experience made me more mobile and hungry to pursue new challenges. Walking away from stability and embracing the unknown was a huge step in my career trajectory.
Bisnow: What are you currently most excited about?
Darrell: Everything in the profession excites me and I’ve been lucky to enjoy 35-plus rewarding years in it. I don’t think it’s a field people go into to get rich; they’re drawn to it because they want to improve the world.
We’re facing increasingly complex times, and I hope the profession continues to have relevance to our local economies. While I believe in the private enterprise system, I recognize that it’s not perfect. And that’s why we need economic developers to fill in the gaps where private enterprise leaves a void.
I think that’s the best testimony I can give as to why we exist. I believe our best days are yet to come and that economic development will continue to be on the cutting edge, helping to elevate our economies to greater heights.
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