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AARO Has a Rich History

The Austin Area Research Organization was founded in 1980 by a group of chief executive officers who found themselves needing a forum for discussion of issues faced by rapidly growing Central Texas—issues that would impact the region’s ability to thrive if they weren’t tackled head on. The list of the founders reads like a Who’s Who of the Austin of that time: Frank McBee (Tracor co-founder),, George Christian (former White House Press Secretary), Don Carlton (Radian International LLC co-founder), Jane Sibley (Austin Symphony President), Lowell Lebermann (CenTex Beverage owner),Roy Butler (former Mayor and Capitol Beverage owner), Jim Fain (Statesman Publisher) and others, totaling 25 members.

By 1993, the region was changing, and AARO knew it needed to change along with it; the organization began admitting community leaders and qualified non-CEO business leaders to the membership. It also began expanding its footprint to include, as of 2013, six burgeoning Central Texas counties: Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Burnet and Caldwell.

But the fundamental reason for AARO’s existence hasn’t changed—the group is still powered by round-table discussions among its 100+ thought leaders and by solid, thoughtful research into the thorniest of issues.

Just a few of AARO’s accomplishments over the years include:

  • Providing research and leadership for moving a controversial, multimillion-dollar water treatment plant forward to provide sustainable water service for a huge swath of Central Texas.
  • Creating the E3 Alliance, the first group of its type in the nation—an organization that consolidates the data from all Central Texas school districts and uses it to foster meaningful change in public education.
  • Intervening to ensure that the City of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority signed a long-term water agreement, benefiting hundreds of thousands of Texans for decades into the future.
  • Co-founding and supporting the Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium, a summit meeting of every significant player in the region’s water scene, and the Central Texas Water Efficiency Network, a monthly meeting of Central Texas utility providers who share best water conservation policies and practices.
  • Helping promote expanded nursing education in Central Texas.
  • Working to get much needed extensions of the critical MoPac highway and funds for SH-130 right-of-way on the ballot—two critical mobility initiatives that were passed overwhelmingly by voters.