You spend nearly 20 years
anywhere, and it’s a tough decision to simply jump ship. Michael Jacobson is no different. He enjoyed scaling the rungs of Intel, the well-respected and highly valued multinational technology outfit, where he toiled for some 19 years.
He crisscrossed the globe as point person for Intel’s hunt for potential investment and most recently ran the chipmaker’s corporate responsibility programs, philanthropic investments and governmental affairs.
Jacobson lived in the suburban hamlet of Folsom, a stone’s throw outside the California state capitol, with the woman he met on the first day of freshman student orientation at Baylor and married before they even U-hauled it out of Waco.
His son was off on his own educational pursuits, finishing up a master’s degree and jumping into real life.
Life was good there.
Yet now he’s here.
Jacobson is the new visionary
helming the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as president and CEO. He was so new to the job that when we meet on Day 4, nothing was on the office walls or shelves, except for photos of wife Kristen, his son, the family dog and this glorious cell phone shot of a golf hole along the watery cliffs of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. A bit more on that later.
First, this: Jacobson is no California transplant eager for change. He was born and raised in North Richland Hills, the son of a physician dad who helped build what is now North Hills Hospital and an influential political fundraising mother with ties to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
He worked four years with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce as chief business recruiter responsible with snagging new business and facilitating the sometimes-murky economic waters of meshing community leaders, government officials and real estate developers.
Six of Jacobson’s siblings, 20 nephews and nieces and over 20 great nephews and nieces are all packed right here in Tarrant County.
So this isn’t just coming for a job.
It’s coming home.
Jacobson’s skills are apparent,
and they earned an enthusiastic thumbs up from interim president Kelly Curnutt, who held down the Chamber fort after Wes Jurey retired last August and they went on a hunt for a new chief.
Chamber Board Chairman Bob Kembel calls Jacobson’s return a “perfect time” for him to lead the chamber due in part to his dizzying bulk of experience, starting with his years of economic development, public policy, stakeholder engagement and leadership which, by the way, was beginning to sharpen as early as 24 while a staffer in the Bush and Reagan administrations.
If you think Curnutt and Kembel are pumped about Arlington’s future, listen to Jacobson. We’re in his office, in a seating area, and when the subject of Arlington comes up, his body language shifts.
“There’s an energy in Arlington right now. You can feel it by just walking around and meeting with people. People are excited about what’s going on now and what the opportunities can be. When I started meeting with people – the mayor, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, UTA – you can just feel it.”
He knows there are challenges – every city has them. Jacobson would rather talk about what can be done with the opportunities: world-class sports and entertainment venues, a top university and community college system, a thriving downtown.
Which brings us to that golf pic. He snapped the photo of the third hole on the course in the popular resort city because of its picturesque setting. Thing is, what I saw in looking at the photo was something that was quite challenging. Getting that little ball on that green without it careening into the ocean.
“I like it because I find it comforting,” says Jacobson, who actually got the ball on the green.
Of course. For him, meeting the challenge is what makes it comforting.