APATX 2020 State Conference Goes Digital!


Chance Sparks, AICP, CNU-A

Howdy Texas Planners!


As promised in my last message, APATX is continuing to adjust to COVID and working hard to keep members informed of critical decisions.


Today represents a significant announcement, as the APATX Executive Board took the following actions:

  • Rescheduled the planned 2020 state conference in El Paso to 2022,
  • Declared the 2020 state conference will be digital, and
  • Authorized partnerships with other APA chapters to provide a joint digital conference.


What this means to you as members:

  • Expect a digital conference in October. As of today, we anticipate maintaining the original dates of October 7-9, 2020.
  • We anticipate reopening the call for sessions, which will allow submitters to edit as needed to reflect the digital environment, and provide an opportunity for additional submissions.
  • We anticipate the digital conference will be a multi-chapter partnership, including some or all of the following chapters: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. We figured that if we’re taking this step, we might as well bring some friends along!
  • APATX and the partner chapters will establish a conference advisory committee. The committee will determine issues like registration cost, which we anticipate will be one of the early decisions to support government planners operating under October 1 - September 30 fiscal years.


What led to this decision:

  • APA Texas’ volunteer-based conference planning approach necessitated early decisions on conference logistics to provide the top-quality conference our members expect.
  • The ongoing hazards related to COVID remain a question and may continue into the Fall, including restrictions on group assembly.
  • Our member survey information indicated that 60-80% of our membership is (1) restricted by employee policy on travel or (2) limited by budget actions. To provide service to our members, we felt obligated to shift to a more accessible format.
  • National population data that indicated societal discomfort with traveling by airplane and staying in hotels. We expected this to carry to planners as well.
  • There are still several unknown variables regarding the airline industry, which we viewed as critical to accessing the El Paso location.
  • The impact resulting from limited in-person attendance would negatively affect APATX’s financial position.
  • We desired to tell El Paso’s planning story in the best way possible, to the greatest audience.


A few other things you might like to know:

  • Our digital conference task force has evaluated over 20 digital event platforms based on our desired capabilities.
  • The El Paso hosts were hand-in-hand with us through every step of this decision process. The folks at Visit El Paso have been stellar to work with and highly accommodating to our situation.
  • Chapter Presidents across the country have been getting together on virtual meetings to discuss approaches to digital conferences. From my perspective, APA is experiencing a new level of collaboration between states, and that is bound to pay off at the national level.


I’m excited about our opportunity to forge new ground in providing members access to new ideas and practices, interact with one another and demonstrate our agility as a profession. I believe this change will not only meet our needs as an organization, but also open new frontiers in building relationships with other organizations and advocating best planning practices.



Chance Sparks, AICP, CNU-A

President, APATX