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How Global Insights and Local Impact Help Shape Our Collective Future: CCBA's Annual Luncheon 2023

Photo courtesy CCBA

Celebrating Leadership, Vision and Community Impact

The Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) is a dynamic force that unites business leaders to catalyze positive change in Collin County, Texas. At its core, the CCBA envisions a community where strength, stature and stability thrive through local business’s collective leadership and innovation. 

Guided by the impassioned words of Sanjiv Yajnik, who serves as Chairman, the CCBA challenges businesses to be more than guests in their community, instead acting as strong anchors driving progress. The group focuses on critical county-wide issues, such as water, mobility, workforce development and civic engagement, aiming to help Collin County thrive and become more vibrant. 

Every December, the CCBA brings together more than 200 business leaders across Collin County for its highly anticipated annual luncheon. This signature event has become a platform for discussing crucial topics, including leadership, world affairs and the economy. 

Over the years, these luncheons have featured distinguished national and international leaders, including former President George W. Bush, Governor Greg Abbott, former Prime Minister David Cameron, and Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post. 

In 2023, the CCBA Annual Luncheon continued its tradition of excellence with a stellar lineup—including a live debate between Fareed Zakaria and Niall Ferguson.

Lessons in City Governance from the Opening Panel

The opening panel, “Lessons in City Governance,” involved a conversation with first-term city council members and showcased local leadership. Moderator Rebecca Silvestri (Local Profile) and panelists Laura Rummel (Frisco City Council), Rick Horne (Plano City Council), Michael Jones (McKinney City Council), and Tommy Baril (Allen City Council) took the stage to delve into the intricacies of city governance, providing valuable lessons for the attendees.

During the panel discussion, Councillor Horne emphasized the importance of maintaining infrastructure and managing growth, particularly in the context of limited available land. Councillor Baril highlighted the need for collaboration and teamwork in city councils, acknowledging the decision-making challenges. 

Councillor Rummel emphasized Frisco's economic growth. She stated, "I am passionate about the little guys, so I care a lot more about the startups and the innovative new companies that will disrupt our markets. I want to see more new businesses come to Frisco, smaller businesses that grow organically with our city as we build out." 

Continuing the discussion, Councilor Jones spoke to McKinney's efforts to address affordable housing through zoning, community land trust initiatives and public-private partnerships. When asked how he approaches building consensus on contentious issues while respecting different viewpoints, Jones mentioned having a very diverse council and that it is really about understanding the initiatives done in the past, not trying to impose your will on the council. He quoted his dad saying, "Wisdom is the reward you get from a lifetime of listening when you prefer to talk."

Furthermore, the panel also touched on the region's overall challenges related to water, energy and traffic management. The council members stressed the importance of collaboration, data-driven decision-making and innovative approaches to address the evolving needs of their respective cities in Collin County.

Photo courtesy CCBA

Celebrating Visionary Leadership: Fehmi Karahan Receives Leadership Award

One of the highlights of the 2023 luncheon was the presentation of the CCBA Leadership Award to Fehmi Karahan, CEO of The Karahan Companies. Karahan's visionary leadership, commitment to building thriving communities and success in economic and real estate development, notably Legacy West and Fields West in Frisco (home of PGA), set a standard for excellence. His contributions extend beyond business, as evidenced by his leadership roles at Children's Medical Center and the Cox School of Business at SMU, where he continues to positively impact young people's lives.

The award presentation included a video that highlighted accolades from prominent figures and local leaders who shared about Karahan's far-sightedness, dedication to creating a sense of place and the global impact of his projects. Mayors and leaders from various cities expressed gratitude for his transformative work, including the mayor of Frisco, who emphasized the excitement around Fields West and its distinction as one of the most significant master plan projects in the state's history.

In an acceptance speech, Karahan thanked the CCBA, fellow business leaders, elected officials and the community for their support in achieving common goals. He also acknowledged the privilege of living and doing business in Collin County, which he proudly declared as the “best possible place in the country.”

Two World-Class Speakers Debate the Liberal International Order

As a final part of the event, Yajnik welcomed two keynote speakers, Fareed Zakaria and Niall Ferguson, to the stage for a debate he moderated.

Zakaria hosts “Fareed Zakaria GPS” for CNN, which has won the Peabody Award, and he is the author of many books. He won an Emmy for his television work, and Foreign Policy Magazine named him a “Top 10 Global Thinker of the Last 10 Years.”

Niall Ferguson is a historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and a senior faculty fellow at Harvard University. He is the author of 16 books, including several New York Times bestsellers. He is also an award-winning filmmaker who received an international Emmy for “The Ascent of Money.” 

The debate between the two keynote speakers revolved around a key question: Is the liberal international order over? Ferguson took the stage first, making the case that the liberal international order is over by citing historical context, economic imbalances and geopolitical crises.

On the other hand, Zakaria defended the idea of the liberal international order, attributing global prosperity and America's success to its cooperative framework. He mentioned, "When you look at America, and you look at all the extraordinary opportunities Americans have to buy things, cheap clothes, cheap food, cheap technology, don't forget that it is all built on the back of a world economy that is open and fast-moving, where capital goes, where it needs to, where it rewards countries that are reforming and where it punishes countries that are not. That's all part of this liberal international order."

The lively debate ended with an audience vote, where most of the audience indicated that they were open to learning more about the topic.

Embracing a Future of Visionary Leadership and Global Collaboration: A Recap

The Collin County Business Alliance Annual Luncheon encapsulated the essence of leadership, vision and community impact. It showcased the dynamic force of the CCBA in uniting business leaders for positive change in Collin County. The opening panel provided valuable lessons in city governance, emphasizing collaboration and innovative approaches to address local challenges. 

At the same time, Fehmi Karahan's receipt of the CCBA Leadership Award celebrated visionary leadership, setting a standard for excellence in economic development. The event's culmination, with a debate on the liberal international order by world-class speakers, highlighted the significance of global perspectives.