Gainesville Chamber's Goal is to Create Jobs "from the GED to the PhD"

23, July 2013

Susan Davenport, the new Vice President of Economic Development at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, wasn't planning on leaving Austin, Texas. When confronted with the opportunity to move to Gainesville, however, Davenport saw a community dedicated to creating jobs and becoming an incubator for new, innovative companies in all industries.

Davenport will bring her expertise to Gainesville to assist the area's growing economy. In her 12 years in Austin, Davenport worked on business recruitment, started a business retention and expansion program, coordinated a regional tech startup program for the state, and started a program for tech executives to support entrepreneurs.

Below is an excerpt from the Gainesville Sun:

While the innovation economy has received a lot of attention, Davenport said the Chamber is focused on creating jobs “from the GED to the Ph.D.”

“We want a whole panorama of jobs and skill sets that provide opportunities broadly across this community,” she said. “I'm being very mindful to look through industry sectors and understand where those opportunities can be gleaned and then understand how we're going to go after them.”

Davenport was born in Texas, grew up in Tupelo, Miss., and returned to Texas to study nursing. After working as a registered nurse for five years, she returned to school to pursue her interest in politics, earning a master's degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

At first, she intended to go into health care policy, but after taking a business class, she became hooked on economics. Her background in medicine and economics led to an opportunity with the Austin Chamber when they were looking for someone to recruit bioscience companies.

“They were like, ‘This is wonderful. You can talk to pharmaceutical companies,' ” she said.

Davenport said Austin became a much different place during her time there, having grown to 4,400 technology companies employing 109,000 people.

“If anybody asked me what was responsible for that it was that well-orchestrated, organized and funded strategy that the business community put forward and the leadership that they exuded,” she said. “We could do that here easily with the assets that this community has.”