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150 Leaders from 58 Communities Join Regional XLR8

UT Austin’s IC2 Institute launched the Regional XLR8 program September 15th as part of its Regional Economic Recovery Initiative. The initiative grew as a response to the COVID-19 crisis and includes multiple components.

  • Mapping the assets of over 60 communities, based on summer 2020 data from approximately 1,500 interviews and 7,500 survey responses of community residents.  
  • Working with community leaders for 6 weeks via Regional XLR8 workshops addressing growth challenges and regional cooperation.
  • UT Austin student participation through the George Kozmetsky Memorial Student Challenge, in which student teams strategize about specific community problems discovered during the Regional XLR8 program.

The first session of Regional XLR8 included over 100 leaders from cities and towns across the state of Texas and southern Louisiana.  They met to discuss mindset, how it affects communities, and opportunities for growth.  Participants have committed to doing varied group and individual homework assignments for six weeks and joining small-group break-out sessions to share challenges and strategies. 

The program relies on the institute’s expertise in entrepreneurship programs, business ecosystem development, and human-centered strategies for engagement and growth. To add a more personal touch to the virtual sessions, instructor Greg Pogue exemplifies challenges with Beatles songs. Pogue says, “Collaborative regional thinking works. We’ve seen this succeed, and it can work in communities outside of major urban centers. Regional XLR8 encourages communities to work together to solve problems and enhance the resilience of their communities and economies. I’m glad to see so many people really taking the opportunity to plan for the future.”

“Collaborative regional thinking works. We’ve seen this succeed, and it can work in communities outside of major urban centers. Regional XLR8 encourages communities to work together to solve problems and enhance the resilience of their communities and economies. I’m glad to see so many people really taking the opportunity to plan for the future.”

Greg Pogue, Deputy Director of the IC2 Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused heavy losses in the state of Texas in terms of life, jobs, and economic and housing security for many families and businesses. Many smaller towns were already struggling before the pandemic spread to more rural areas. Small or remote communities were dealing with losses in population, rural hospital closures, limited broadband access, less diverse economies, and low budgets to address problems in the community.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many communities that were already struggling. Communities have to focus on developing a mindset focused on growth and collaboration that will enable them to maintain their core strengths and identity while also pursuing new opportunities and attracting and retaining a talented workforce.”

Dr. Art Markman, Executive Director of the IC2 Institute

The institute will work with small or remote cities across the region to form regional cohorts and collaborate to increase economic resilience in those communities. Regional XLR8 encourages community leaders to use this critical period to rethink recovery, take strategic action, and build resilience. 

The number of community leaders in the program has been updated to reflect additions since the initial release of this story.

For more information on the ICInstitute or how to get involved with REGIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY INITIATIVE, please contact us at: info@ic2.utexas.edu.