ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The new downtown hotel in Abilene has only been open for two months, but some local business owners are already seeing an impact. Still, they are wondering what is next for Abilene development, and the Chamber of Commerce has announced that plans are in the works. 

One local downtown business, Seven and One Books, has only been open for one year. The owner, Arlene Kasselman, said the hotel being built downtown was the main reason why she chose to open in this location. 

“One of the things we have noticed is the number of out-of-town visitors we get, and it’s surprising,” Kasselman shared. 

Now that it has been open since June, she said there have already been more visitors 

“It’s very hard for me to look at data and say what is happened is linked to the hotel yet. I believe it will be there 100%,” Kasselman explained. 

However, for a business like Texas Star Trading Company that has been downtown for almost 20 years, they can definitely tell there is a difference. 

“The most recent thing that I’ve seen is that we had an influx of firefighters that came from the Hilltop fire recently,” said Assistant Manager David Ingram. 

He shared that these firefighters flew in from Florida and stayed at the hotel, adding that he has noticed multiple families visit from Florida as well. 

“I can always tell when they’re from the hotel. They have their plastic water cups from the hotel,” Ingram shared. 

Now that this hotel is complete, both Ingram and Kasselman say they are wondering what will happen next. 

According to Vice President of Communications for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, Laurin Kocurek, “We’re absolutely not done yet.”

Kocurek shared that they have just completed the first year of their five-year plan, ‘Lead ABI.’ Currently, they are working on a community performance index that will be released in October. 

“That will judge our community from an economic development standpoint up against our sister cities,” Kocurek explained. 

These sister cities include Odessa and Wichita Falls. The index will show them and the community where they need to focus their attention. 

At the same time, Kocurek told KTAB/KRBC they are working on some new developments and partnership projects that will also be announced in October. 

Whatever those future projects may be, Ingram and Kasselman shared that they are just thankful for the growth that has already come downtown. 

“I am super excited that the chamber is committed to downtown Abilene,” said Kasselman. 

Kocurek said they are working to develop the rest of Abilene as well. She shared that the hotel occupancy tax in Abilene is up 15% in one year, which is a major growth for the city. She added that this largely has to do with the new hotel.