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CCBA's work shaped Collin County for 10 years. What's next?

About three years ago, one of the biggest golf organizations in the world started the search for a new home.

About three years ago, one of the biggest golf organizations in the world started the search for a new home. At first, the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) of America cast a big net, analyzing the markets, economies and demographics of several major American cities. But according to Sandy Cross, the organization’s chief people officer, their decision was ultimately swift and seamless.

“The vision of Frisco to become Sports City USA was incredibly enticing, and it was something we wanted to be a part of,” Cross says. “We saw our organization thriving here, and just as importantly, we saw our people thriving here, too.”

Around the same time Cross’ colleagues were finalizing their Frisco vetting, the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) held a luncheon for business and civic leaders from several Collin County cities, including Frisco, the PGA of America’s new home.

Shona Huffman, a councilwoman and the director of governmental affairs for the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the event.

“We have a lot of land to use,” she told the crowd. “Companies are looking for new places to develop, and we have room for a lot of companies to plan for what they want to do in the future.”

The North Texas region—and Collin County in particular—has experienced tremendous growth and success over the last decade. All the while, the CCBA has become something of a beacon for the county and its leaders: In essence, the CCBA became a col- laborative force that highlights key issues and unites the prob- lem-solvers needed to get things done.

“Collin County is a land of movers and shakers,” Cross says. “The CCBA is one of them.”

Sandy Cross of the PGA of America. (Photo by Heather Holt Photography/PGA of America)

Smart Growth

To understand the impact the CCBA has had—and continues to have—on Collin County, one must first under- stand why the organization was founded in the first place. In 2011, leaders from across the county realized that they had an incredible opportunity to positively influence the region by creating a community where corporations and citizens thrive. They knew things were rapidly changing in the cities they called home, and they knew they needed an inclusive strategy to harness the change.

Collin County’s population increased by nearly 300,000 between 2000 and 2010, and with that boom came added diver- sity. For instance, in that decade alone, the county became home to more than 20,000 Indian residents.

That population growth correlated with a deluge of businesses coming to the region. The key then became to harness a strategy of smart growth.

Hole 17 at the East Course at the Omni PGA Frisco Resort.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, people outside of Texas would have been hard-pressed to name a Collin County city other than Plano. The headquarters of J.C. Penney and Frito-Lay (and Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems) had put Plano on the map, but places like Allen and McKinney were hardly household names, even in Texas.

Yet by 2010, Frisco’s population had nearly quadrupled, and businesses like Toyota, J.P. Morgan/Chase, Liberty Mutual and more would soon bring even more jobs, people and opportunity to communities throughout Collin County. Soon enough, media outlets like CNN Moneyand USATodaywould begin singling out the county for its premier mix of affordability, diversity and economic opportunity. The schools, of course, were still top-tier, and Uber had chosen Frisco as the site of its long-awaited aerial ride-share program, Uber Elevate.

Local leaders, like CCBA founder Sanjiv Yajnik, dreamed bigger. Yajnik believed this immense growth created a unique opportu- nity wherein businesses and community leaders could help each other improve their surroundings. So Yajnik, the president of financial services at Capital One, helped found the CCBA. Yajnik says the goal of the CCBA is to “foster collaboration between businesses and key stakeholders, driving regional impact and ensuring the vibrancy of our community’s future. Each city in Collin County knows what issues matter most and where we stand on them.”

Sanjiv Yajnik, founder of the Collin County Business Alliance.

Those issues include voting, social justice, civic engagement and much more. The alliance hosts roundtables and summits and designs programs with the goal of tackling these issues and their local imprint, and in doing so, they believe the growth Collin County continues to see will be accompanied by even more suc- cess and equity.

“Communities thrive in places where people are willing to open up and build genuine trust and meaningful relationships,” Yajnik adds. “We must celebrate our similarities and cherish our dif- ferences to continue to cultivate the richness and creativity that drives the success of this beautiful county.”

The alliance spent its first 10 years enhancing the county’s work- force development strategy and tackling issues like water and mobility. All the while, its annual convening served as a foun- dation for teamwork and innovation, a place where businesses could engage in the kind of forward-thinking conversations that are essential for continual growth. Then the pandemic began.

In 2020, as COVID-19 ravaged the country and shined a light on deep and painful divisions, Yajnik and company realized, once again, that they had a chance to help. So they got to work.

Blueprint for the Future

“Hunger isn’t hidden anymore.”

That was the stark and haunting reality shared by Trisha Cun- ningham at a meeting between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020. Only this meeting wasn’t held around a round table or at a bois- terous, cheerful luncheon. Instead, Cunningham, the CEO of the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB), was sharing these stark words over Zoom as everyone from former Plano Mayor Harry LaRosil- iere to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chimed in.

The event, hosted by the CCBA, was a virtual conference on COVID, food insecurity and social division. Local leaders were huddling to tackle the county’s most pressing problems, and in the past two years, hunger had risen to the top of the list.

Roughly 40 percent of the people the NTFB are serving did not need its help last year, Cunningham told everyone gathered for the meeting. The takeaway was clear: The coronavirus created a startling rise in food insecurity throughout Collin County.

Trisha Cunningham, CEO of the North Texas Food Bank.

For much of the last two years, the CCBA has been focusing its efforts on social justice. Usually that means bringing national and local luminaries together to brainstorm and devise solutions to challenges like hunger, as was the case for that early December 2020 conference. At other times, the CCBA has focused its efforts on racial equity.

In the summer of 2020, as protests against police brutality and systemic racism roiled the country, Yajnik and the CCBA con- vened multiple gatherings of mayors, Collin County chambers of commerce and Black business owners. Each of these meetings was led by a single question: How can businesses do the work needed to address racism?

In a letter to fellow CCBA members, Yajnik said, “We must lean in and fight against unspeakable acts of violence until every Amer- ican feels safe, valued, heard and supported at work and in their communities—because actions always speak louder than words.”

Ultimately, the discussions held by Yajnik and company led to a social justice program called Collin County Unites, which, in their words, is “a blueprint toward a more vibrant and equitable community.” That blueprint has three pillars: use internship pro- grams to further equity for youth in underrepresented communi- ties; increase engagement and turnout among Black voters; and support Black-owned businesses.

In turn, Collin County Unites became the basis for the alliance’s first-ever Equity Summit. Hosted alongside the Communities Foundation of North Texas, the inaugural Equity Summit drew more than 200 virtual participants for discussions that touched on everything from investing in diverse businesses to having tough but necessary conversations about racism.

According to Yajnik and the alliance, discussions like these are vital if any prosperous community hopes to live up to its potential and foster equity.

“My North Star will always be to find an answer to the ques- tion, ‘How can we make life better?’” Yajnik says.“I fundamentally believe that innovation is fueled byapurpose that drives us forward.” That devotion to improving lives has helped to be the CCBA's North Star. And as Yajnik and his fellow leaders look ahead, they plan to continue these essential conversations about inequality and how it can be addressed.

“I’m also eager to see how our leaders in water, energy and mobility will keep up with our growth,” Yajnik adds. “The best is yet to come.”

Cross agrees. She, too, is looking ahead, and she thinks the future of the PGA is brighter than ever. The organization current- ly has around 80 people in its Collin County office, and Cross says there are plans to almost double that number.

The organization’s status in Collin County will certainly help those growth goals, and like the CCBA, Cross says the PGA will continue focusing on diversity—in every aspect of the word. “We want to grow diversity in the game of golf and the supply chain, which is an $84 billion industry,” she says. “The fact that there's been a migration happening to North Texas over the years is an incredible indicator of how this community takes care of its people, and I see that with the people I work with. The people that have relocated here are finding that the world is their oyster.”

This article appeared as "Movers and Shakers" in the January/February 2022 issue of Local Profile magazine.