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What you missed at the 2023 TAB Policy Conference

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Blog by Katie Zarate, Director of Communications The Texas Association of Business (TAB) rounded out its centennial celebration with our Annual Policy Conference on December 7, 2023.


This year’s theme was Texas on the Global Scale: How Policies Shape Our Future. With an impressive slate of C-suite executives from Texas’ hottest industries, the Policy Conference addressed employers’ most pressing challenges and celebrated newly minted legislation that strengthened Texas’ position as the Best State for Business.


The program began with an economic forecast by Jon Hockenyos, who emphasized the value of tech industry to our state’s economy. Due to a strong workforce, low cost of living, and a business-friendly regulatory environment, Texas is ripe for innovation. The Future of Tech & AI panelists spoke to the importance of good governance. Light taxes and reasonable regulations all contribute to the tech sector’s success.


TAB was fortunate to have Texas State Representative Giovanni Capriglione speak on the Tech & AI panel. A policy leader in this arena, Rep. Capriglione has passed several impactful pieces of legislation, including the Texas Cybercrime Act, the Texas Cybersecurity Act, and the Texas Data Privacy and Security Act. TAB advocates for tech regulations that balance individual freedoms while maximizing innovation.

In addition to the right regulatory climate, Amazon’s Rebecca Gonzales underlined the importance of human-centered AI. When developing these products, the goal should be to help people augment what they are already doing – not replace people altogether.


Panelists touched on the impact AI has, not only on retail and social media experiences, but also in education and the workplace. As McKinsey’s Saurabh Sanghvi said, “The future of work is already here and it's moving fast.”While we like to say everything is bigger in Texas, there is a technology champion across the globe that is worth mentioning. Our friend and ally, Israel, is an innovation giant, and Israeli Tech is a brand that has earned worldwide respect. Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and Special Envoy for Innovation, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, opened her remarks by saying, “Every single Israeli thinks they can save the world with some new technology. That is embedded in our DNA.” She explained how challenges with agriculture and water security led to creative solutions. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” she said.

While Fleur faced questions about her decision to travel to Texas during a war, she stood her ground. “Peace can be achieved through economic development and economic bridges.” The Deputy Mayor shared that Texas can help Israel strengthen its global partnerships, and Israel can serve as a gateway to the Middle East for Texas. TAB Chairman, Massey Villarreal, awarded Fleur the “Innovation Diplomacy Award” for strengthening economic ties and encouraging innovation through collaboration between the Start-Up Nation and the Scale-Up State.


Keeping with the international theme, TAB CEO Glenn Hamer moderated a conversation between IBC Bank’s Gerry Schwebel and former Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos on the value of Texas’ relationship with Mexico. $800 billion in trade flows between Texas and Mexico each year, and in 2022 alone, Texas and Mexico had a trade relationship of $285 billion. There is currently bipartisan legislation at the federal level, authored by Senator Ted Cruz, to streamline the presidential permitting process required for international bridges. Language for the bill was included in the Defense Authorization Act, a giant step forward for proponents. TAB’s CEO summarized the Association’s border policy position as “maximizing good goods and preventing bad people and bad goods.” IBC Bank’s Gerry Schwebel, a recognized trade and immigration expert, added that “migration is tied to trade whether we like it or not.” As the U.S. continues to navigate a labor shortage, there are legislative solutions, like commonsense immigration reform, that could help employers fill labor gaps. Any step forward should be celebrated, and as TAB advocates, border security can and must be achieved simultaneously.

While immigration is one solution to labor gaps, there are also policy reforms in the education realm that can strengthen the future workforce. Commissioner Harrison Keller, Woody Hunt, and Grayson College President Dr. Jeremy P. McMillen joined former Secretary of State Ruth Hughs for the conversation. During the 88th Legislative Session, lawmakers transformed the way community colleges were funded through House Bill 8, which established an outcomes-based funding formula. Lawmakers also passed House Bill 1595 (Texas University Fund); both bills enjoyed immense support from the business community.


The Texas Association of Business celebrated the 88th Legislative Session as a historic success for economic development. Adriana Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Director for Economic Development and Tourism, applauded the Legislature’s passage of House Bill 5 (JETI Act) and the Texas CHIPS Act. The JETI Act will serve as the state’s new, transparent and accountable economic development incentive program. The tax tool will give communities a powerful leg-up in the competition to attract large capital-intensive investments to their regions. With Texas being the birthplace of the microchip, Adriana Cruz also emphasized the importance of the Texas CHIPS Act for reinforcing our state’s leadership on semiconductors. This is good for our supply chains, the broader manufacturing ecosystem, and the tens of thousands of Texans employed by the industry. Both bills were top priorities for TAB this session.


When it comes to business acumen, there is one family name that shines bright in the headlines: The Adelsons.


TAB Policy Conference attendees were on the edge of their seats for Dr. Miriam Adelson’s keynote address. She recounted her recent travels to Israel and spared no detail in the brutalities of Hamas’ attack. Dr. Adelson applauded Texas’ support of Israel and said, like Texans, Israelis stand up and stick to their guns. Carrying on the legacy of her late husband and founder of Las Vegas Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Dr. Miriam Adelson is recognized as the most prominent philanthropist and advocate for encouraging a strong US-Israel relationship. She touted the Texas-Israel relationship as deeper than business, and with a smile she added, “and it even runs deeper than basketball.”To recognize her support of the world’s premiere Lone Star States, TAB CEO Glenn Hamer presented Dr. Adelson with the “Lone Star Champion Award.”


The 2023 TAB Policy Conference was attended by over 250 business leaders, state agency heads, and capitol staff.

The TAB Policy Conference, presented by Philip Morris International, was made possible by our generous sponsors. Click here to review the 2023 agenda.

Photos were taken by Sarah Saiz and can be reviewed here.

Video footage was taken by Red Owl Studios. Segments of the conference can be watched on the TxBiz Youtube channel.

Hats off to our wonderful slate of speakers:

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione  

Rebecca Gonzales 

Saurabh Sanghvi

Ryan Harkins

Amanda Wheeler 

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum         

Gerry Schwebel

Rolando Pablos

Dr. Miriam Adelson                    

Woody Hunt              

Commissioner Harrison Keller      

Dr. Jeremy P. McMillen 

Ruth Hughs          

Adriana Cruz

Jeff Smith 

John Schreck                 

Drew Scheberle

Dr. Joe Elabd

John Schreck  

Hesston Klenk 

Bryan Sams      

Suresh Vasan

Commissioner Jimmy Glotfelty

Massey Villarreal 

Glenn Hamer

Jo Betsy Norton


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