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Collin County Business Alliance discusses innovation and changes in the workforce

Fareed Zakaria (left) is the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN.
Photo courtesy of Dala Communications
Fareed Zakaria (left) is the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN.  Sanjiv Yajnik (right) is the Financial Services President at Capital One and CCBA Chairman | Photo credit: Grant Miller Photography

Last Friday, Capital One Conference Center in Plano hosted the seventh anniversary luncheon for the Collin County Business Alliance. The CCBA is a group of business leaders who emphasize the importance of taking action now to shape our vibrant community. They serve as a catalyst for key issues, including water, transportation, and education.

Read more: Mayor LaRosiliere on the future of transportation in Collin County

Panelists for the seventh anniversary luncheon included President of Paul Quinn College Michael Sorrell, President of Dallas Innovation Alliance Jennifer Sanders, Brooke Paup of the Texas Water Development Board, and Associate Vice President of Design and planning at AECOM Steven Duong. The panel was moderated by Paul O’ Donnell, Dallas Morning News‘ Business Editor.


During the panel, panelists touched on a variety of topics pertaining to Collin County, including the key issues for which CCBA advocates.

As President of Paul Quinn College Sorrell is a large proponent of higher education.

“We don’t have that many schools in this region,” Sorrell said. “We have to speak to that.”

A full year’s tuition, room, and board at Paul Quinn College costs just over $15,000, which is fairly inexpensive compared to that of most four-year universities. Sorrell hopes that Paul Quinn’s College relatively low costs will help bring in a diverse group of thinkers to the university.

“We are a society that works beautifully for some of us, but not well for all of us, Sorrell said. “Higher education should be responsive to our era.”

Paul O’Donnell, Michael Sorrell, Brooke Paup, Jennifer Sanders, and Steven Duong were this year’s panelist at the CCBA luncheon | Photo credit: Grant Miller Photography

A hot topic at the CCBA luncheon was Amazon HQ2. Dallas and Plano were thought to be prospects for HQ2, however, Amazon ultimately chose to split its second headquarters between Long Island City, NY and Crystal City, VA.

Sorrell noted that Amazon HQ2 ultimately did Collin County a favor by helping us focus on our deficiencies, while Sanders added that we should “be mindful of the unintended consequences that come with growth.”

Read more: The challenges and opportunities facing Collin County

Paup noted that when planning for change and innovation within a community, we should all “Think of what we are willing to invest in your infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way.”

While every industry may be well-staffed with technologically skilled, the panelists all agree that more people skilled and educated in liberal arts are needed in the workforce.

“Think how you can work across boundaries and people,” Duong said. “Branching outside of STEM is necessary to innovate.”

Fireside Chat

The fireside chat portion of the CCBA luncheon was led by Capital One’s Financial Service President and CCBA  Chairman Sanjiv Yajnik and special guest, Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria is an anchor on CNN, a columnist for Washington Post, and a best-selling author.

Read more: Sanjiv Yajnik, president of Capital One Financial Services, makes giving back his business

“We need to think of innovation as a much more complicated phenomenon,” Zakaria said. “The more we learn about the brain, the more we know how complicated it is.”

During the fireside chat, Zakaria noted that while artificial intelligence is rapidly growing in the workforce, human assistance will always be necessary.

“A lot of what AI can do is the routine function,” Zakaria said. “It will always need human assistance. The value you add will come from that extra dimension.”

Zakaria also noted that in order to support a stronger education system, more public transportation is needed to help people get to school and work more easily.

“Vote in your local elections,” Zakaria said. “We need public transportation and to support higher
education. This will help with social mobility.”

Closing Thoughts

The panelists and keynote speakers touched on multiple topics. I left the luncheon with a better understanding of why people need to vocalize issue in their communities and get involved in politics, both nationally and locally.