That Austin “Brand”

Scott Francis
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I liked this article because it talks about something that I have found difficult to articulate in the past except through the telling of a lot of anecdotes (which you can find by browsing the “Austin” category on our site).  The article discusses Austin’s “brand” and the effect that the Formula 1 race is having on it:

Tens of thousands of fans from across the country and around the world descend on Austin this week for what will be the biggest sports weekend in city history.
In its football stadium, the University of Texas will host Oklahoma State before as many as 100,000 fans. Fifteen miles away, the world’s most advanced race cars will compete before more than that many fans in Formula One’s United States Grand Prix.

So, the fact that Austin can draw high-profile events despite being only the 4th or 5th largest city in Texas is pretty interesting… but Marv Danielski puts it better:

Austin has some similarities to hip college towns such as Madison, Wis., and Boulder, Colo., but, “What separates Austin is it is becoming a major city in reputation. Even without a major, big three professional team, it is (able to) garner events of note that speak to the vibrancy and vibe of the city.”
He added, “As a brand, it is all about creating and then maintaining this distinctive and unique perception, from Austin City Limits to Threadgill’s to South by Southwest, the city has alive streets, people who are engaged with the sense of place, who speak of its charms and values in a unique way. Great cities have a sense of brand magic to them, a sense of emotional connections.”

I’ve written before about how Austin seems to be escaping some of the traps of other high-tech towns, such as San Francisco, where the concern seems to be that high tech is crowding out the very culture that makes San Francisco unique and attractive.  In Austin, I see a lot of evidence that High-Tech residents are re-investing in that culture-  in music venues, in businesses that support the arts and “keeping Austin weird”.  And yet we also have our challenges – condominiums potentially infringing on our Live Music Capital of the World label (one wonders why the condo associations assume that the music venues will be quieter, when for the most part the music pre-dates and in fact attracted the condo dwellers).  Startups and high-tech are a big part of the culture, but not a suffocating part of the culture here.

What gets me excited about Austin is the fact that each piece seems to support the other, previous pieces. I was skeptical about the benefits of Formula 1 to Austin, but there’s no doubt that the number of racing events at the Circuit of the Americas is having an impact, as is the international attention and commerce.

So high-level motor racing and extreme sports have joined music festivals, movie production, the food scene and high technology as part of Austin’s distinctive brand.
Nationally, it’s become difficult to find a Top 10 list that doesn’t include Austin: one of the best places to date, raise a family, retire, be fit, start a small business, own an electric vehicle or be an entrepreneur. A few years ago, Kiplinger’s pegged Austin as the Best City for the Next Decade, and last year The Street, a financial news website, touted Austin as one of 10 U.S. cities poised for greatness.

Of course, foodie culture is either cause or effect in this equation:

Austin could also make a Top 10 list for best city in which to own a restaurant. Austin restaurants are now featured on TV more often than eateries in Dallas or Houston. This summer, Zagat tabbed Austin’s Uchi as one of the country’s top places for sushi, and last month that renowned restaurant guide named two local bars, Wright Bros. Brew & Brew and Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., as among the 19 hottest bars in 11 cities. […]

According to Tvfoodmaps.com, which tracks 37 different food TV shows, 62 Austin restaurants have been featured on at least one national show. That’s more than any other city in the state; Houston had 41, Dallas 27, San Antonio 22 and Fort Worth 20.

As if that wasn’t enough, today I saw this, on bike sharing, just the beginning of a roll-out that will make getting around downtown a lot more practical for commuters (park once, bike the rest).  And it is an example of a partnership between government and startups influenced by high-tech:

The city of Austin and Bike Share of Austin have proposed 11 initial locations for the Dec. 24 roll out of Austin’s bike-share kiosks.
The 11 locations are distributed throughout downtown, with six of them creating a main thoroughfare along Congress Avenue running from the Capitol building in the north to East Monroe Street in the south.

I feel pretty lucky to have found Austin… someday I’ll tell the story of how one man was responsible for changing the course of Austin high-tech, and indirectly responsible for getting me down here as well.

 

  • Scott Cleveland

    I enjoy your enthusiasm for Austin…

    • i don’t claim any special talent or skill for picking Austin to live in – but I do claim good judgment for having the sense to stay ;)

      It is one of the funny things about Austinites – we are unashamed Austin boosters :)