Longtime Abilene Industrial Foundation leader to retire

ABILENE, Texas - The longtime president of the Abilene Industrial Foundation is retiring.

Bill Ehrie, a retired Air Force colonel and commander at Dyess Air Force Base, said he plans to step down effective Sept. 30.

Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, has been named interim president until Ehrie's replacement is named.

Ehrie has worked at the Abilene Industrial Foundation since 1992.

Here's the news release from the Abilene Chamber of Commerce:

Ehrie Ends Long Abilene Career

 Abilene, TX – (August 13, 2013) - William (Bill) Ehrie, has been working on behalf of Abilene for over two decades.  The retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Commander at Dyess Air Force Base walked into the Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF) offices in 1992 and built an economic development powerhouse.

Ehrie announced today that he plans to retire as President of the AIF effective Sept. 30.  Jason Smith, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, has been named interim President until Ehrie's replacement is named.  Additionally, Ehrie will stay in an advisory role with the AIF to assist in military affairs.  The AIF is an affiliate of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

"I have mixed emotions today with this announcement," Ehrie said.  "Obviously, I will miss the day-to-day interactions with people whom I have become very close to over the past 20 years. But I am very pleased with the accomplishments we have made as an organization and as a city.  I am also glad to be maintaining connection to the organization through an advisory position at AIF and the Chamber at this critical moment in history for the U.S. Air Force.

"Dyess is so very important to the economic health of Abilene.  The Chamber and AIF have shown remarkable consistency in their unparalleled efforts to retain and expand those operations.  I will continue to help in those efforts."

Abilene Industrial Foundation Chairman of the Board Ron Butler thanked Ehrie for his service.

"Bill is an extraordinary economic developer and person," Butler said. "He built the military affairs component for AIF and the Chamber which is recognized as the best of any community in the United States. However, most people don't realize the impact he has made with other projects throughout the community. There many Abilenians and regional community residents going to work every day who owe a portion, if not all, of their job to Bill Ehrie's efforts."

Some of the projects on which Bill has led Abilene's efforts include: Eagle Aviation Services, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, Rentech Boilers and Tigé Boats, among many others.  His military accomplishments are too long to mention, but Ehrie has been instrumental in Abilene being the home of the coveted Abilene Trophy given annually to Air Mobility Command's top community for support and led Abilene's efforts in previous BRAC efforts. Most recently, he led the community's effort in getting a new fleet of 28 C130-J aircrafts.

Prior to his time with the AIF, Ehrie served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years and retired as a Colonel.

Butler indicated that Bill's commitment to stay as an advisor on military issues and Smith's economic development experience, along with a strong staff, would give the organization some time to find the right solution for the long-term success of the organization.

Smith was recently named President of the Chamber after nine years as the Vice President of Economic Development for the Lincoln (NE) Chamber of Commerce.  He has 17 years of economic development experience.  Additionally, Gary Robinett will continue to serve as the lead on jobs projects for the AIF.

"We will miss Bill immensely," Smith said.  "You can't just replace that many years of experience overnight. However, we are going to be sure that we operate at the maximum effectiveness on behalf of the citizens of Abilene. We will work with the AIF board and our partners to take a long look at the program to determine a path forward.  In the interim, I have complete confidence in the current staff that we will continue to operate in a very positive and productive manner and make sure that we are a prime destination for new jobs and investment."


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