What is AARO’s Purpose? To catalyze progress for the people of Central Texas. We engage regional leaders in data-driven discussions shaped by the wisdom of our Members.
How We Work
AARO’s operating system, or flywheel as we often refer to it, is set into motion by BBQs* – big beautiful questions. BBQs are ambitious yet actionable questions that shift the way we perceive or think and serve as a catalyst for progress.
Asking thoughtful questions is AARO’s superpower. We believe the best questions unlock learning and open us to diverse perspectives and new possibilities.
*From “The Book of Beautiful Questions” by Warren Berger
Postsecondary completion is crucial to earning a living wage in Central Texas as it significantly expands job prospects, earning potential and alignment to thriving industries. It also supports earning a living wage, upward mobility and adapting to our changing economy. However, postsecondary attainment is challenging for many in our communities. Financial constraints, access, work and family responsibilities, academic preparedness and lack of support services all pose challenges on the path towards a certification or degree. From a regional scale, these systemic issues have an impact on the state of our Central Texas workforce, our regional innovation and productivity, and our ability to attract and retain businesses.
Recognizing that a certification or degree is key to earning a living wage, how can AARO positively impact the number of students that are applying, enrolling, and completing a postsecondary education in Central Texas?
Members are investigating the feasibility of a workplace training program introducing parents and guardians to the postsecondary pathways available in Central Texas from the 5th grade through the 9th.
It is widely accepted that electronic exchange of clinical information is vital to improving health care quality, safety, and patient outcomes. On a community level, this is achieved through a Health Information Exchange (HIE). In 1997, Central Texas health institutions banded together in a nonprofit alliance called the Integrated Care Collaboration (ICC). The ICC created a cutting edge, community focused HIE, called the ICare system, to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations while reducing costs to health systems and public funders.
The ICC is at a critical juncture, considering in what form and by what funding mechanisms a public HIE could be reimagined and supported to meet the needs of Central Texans, health providers, public funders, academicians and innovators.
How can Central Texas support the evolution of our region’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) to support the safe and efficient treatment of patients across the region?
Members are delving into the potential benefits and funding mechanisms of successful HIEs elsewhere in Texas and the United States, consulting with local users and contemplating how Central Texas can support the evolution of our region’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) to support the safe and efficient treatment of patients across the region.
Housing affordability is a critical component of achieving social equity in Central Texas. Accessible housing options create pathways to essential resources such as food, healthcare, education, and transportation while fostering inclusive communities and breaking the cycle of poverty. However, Central Texas has faced a significant challenge regarding housing affordability over the past two decades. The region's rapid population growth, coupled with high housing demand, has resulted in soaring prices, making it increasingly difficult for many residents, especially those with low and middle incomes, to find affordable housing. This issue not only affects individuals but also impacts the overall economic well-being of the region. Addressing this challenge requires collaborative efforts among government entities, developers, and community organizations to increase the supply of affordable housing, explore innovative solutions, and cater to the diverse needs of different income groups. By prioritizing housing affordability, Central Texas can work towards a more equitable society for all.
What are the systemic challenges driving housing unaffordability in Central Texans?
Members continue to gather information on housing unaffordability in Central Texas to identify AARO's unique place of influence.
Congestion and lack of mobility options have been a constant complaint of residents for decades. Central Texas today is home to three of the fastest growing cities in the US in 2022 (1st Georgetown, 3rd Kyle and 4th Leander) and the 10th largest US city (Austin). While traffic patterns look somewhat different than pre-pandemic (about 23% lower in 2022 than 2019), on average Central Texans still lost 53 hours to delays traveling to, through and from Austin in 2022.
AARO support for regional investments in road and transit infrastructure is evidenced throughout the organization’s history. Most recently, AARO supported the reconstruction and expansion of I-35 with managed lanes and an AARO task force studied and robustly supported the 2020 Project Connect System Plan and City of Austin tax rate election to help fund the first phase of the light rail system envisioned therein.
How do we best enhance regional mobility through targeted investments in infrastructure and systems?
While monitoring, supporting, and reinforcing implementation of these investments in the most inclusive and productive ways, members continue to investigate opportunities for enhanced regional collaboration, innovation, and system expansion.
Water affordability, sustainability, quality, and access are of utmost importance for the future of Central Texas. However, these vital aspects face numerous challenges. The region's surface water supply is strained due to a growing population, industrial demands, increased evaporation caused by a hotter climate, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and regulatory restrictions. The interconnectedness of surface water and groundwater further complicates the situation, with interactions occurring in rivers, springs, lakes, and reservoirs. Groundwater conservation and sustainability are under threat from over extraction and depletion. At the same time, aging water infrastructure in Central Texas, including pipes and distribution systems, requires maintenance and replacement as they deteriorate, crack, and corrode. During periods of drought and water scarcity, these infrastructure challenges become more pronounced as shrinking and shifting ground strain the pipes, necessitating additional logistical and financial resources for our region's water utilities. Ensuring resilience and well-being for Central Texas relies on tackling these challenges and implementing sustainable water management practices that can withstand future periods of prolonged and severe droughts.
How can AARO influence the long-term affordability, sustainability, quality, and accessibility of water for all Central Texans?
Members are exploring opportunities to increase regional awareness and urgency to supply, protect, reuse and conserve water in Central Texas.
Over the past two decades, Central Texas has emerged as a vibrant center of innovation and entrepreneurship, driven by thriving industries in technology, healthcare, education, and manufacturing. This economic strength has spurred job creation and attracted global talent and investment. Simultaneously, our region has experienced significant population growth, projected to reach nearly four million residents by 2050. This growth has contributed to increased racial and ethnic diversity, but it has also resulted in income inequality, with a widening gap between the highest and lowest earners. Furthermore, the relentless force of urbanization poses further challenges, encroaching upon rural communities, green spaces, environmentally sensitive areas, and agricultural lands. As Central Texas continues to evolve, it is imperative for leaders to proactively manage growth and confront these pressing issues head on.
What is the region’s shared strategic Vision for Central Texas through the year 2050?
Members are exploring the impact of Envision Central Texas through a 20-year lookback at its implementation and legacy while defining AARO's unique role in promoting a strategic vision for Central Texas while.