One week ago today, we closed the books on the General Session of our 2023 Fall Conference in Austin, capping a successful event that was jam-packed with educational sessions, networking opportunities, and a varied roster of keynote speakers.
We kicked off the Conference on Monday with remarks by U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley, who shared his impressions on the current political state of play, and what he sees as warning signs for the future of free enterprise.
Bradley asserted that the bipartisan bias for markets – once considered conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle – has been whittled away by fringe elements on both the left and the right, and that these forces are gaining ground. “There has been a breakdown in pro-business consensus and policies,” Bradley said. “The era of deference to free markets is over.” Even with that, he went on to say that he remains highly optimistic about American business. His advice to Washington? “Don’t screw it up.”
Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. Not in this political climate. We spent a good bit of our time in Austin discussing how the chaos inside the Beltway is affecting our industry, and how we can continue to make our voices heard above the din. We captured over a dozen testimonials from convention attendees on how R&D amortization is impacting their businesses, and we debuted our new ad on the issue, which will be airing during cable news programs in the coming days.
Emerging technologies were a hot topic, with over a dozen tech-centric breakout sessions (many of which were standing room only) as well as a meeting of our newTechnology Committee. I dropped in on as many of these sessions as time allowed, and I was heartened by the engagement and the excitement I felt among participants. Technology is here, it is changing our world, and our industry is going to be on the frontlines of that change.
Finally, we wrapped our General Session on Tuesday with our Awards Ceremony, during which we welcomed six new inductees to our College of Fellows. We also awarded scholarships to 10 exceptional college students who represent the very best of our emerging engineering workforce. After meeting these talented and ambitious young people, I am certain the future of our industry is in excellent hands.
There is so much to be excited about for our industry, and that enthusiasm was palpable throughout our time in Austin. We had a record number of attendees (1,015) and announced that our PAC fundraising hit $1 million – the fastest pace we’ve ever reached that milestone. It was an all-around great conference, and I am already looking forward to seeing everyone again in Washington at our Annual Convention and Legislative Summit, scheduled for May 12-15, 2024. In the meantime, be sure to check out some of the blogs and podcasts produced throughout the Conference.
Linda Bauer Darr
President & CEO
American Council of Engineering Companies | ACEC