Why Choose Austin?

Scott Francis
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A great article from Built In Austin about why 4 tech companies chose Austin for their next big office.  I think Westland from ProjectManager.com nailed the reason many companies locate here:

“It’s beautiful and people are friendly,” he said, “but from a business perspective, it’s easy to recruit people at our stage of growth, who aren’t all coming from mature companies like Microsoft or Google. It’s not expensive to retain good staff with the right incentives in place. You can get exactly the right people with exactly the right KPIs working on exactly the right product at exactly the right compensation level, etcetera.”

Box, IBM, Eureka, and Sprinklr were also mentioned in the article. Seemingly each arrived for a different reason – opportunity, history, community, acquisition.  There are a hundred more stories like this to tell in Austin.

In the context of the recent Proposition 1 vote in Austin, you read this article and read about these companies and nothing has changed.  Which ride-for-hire services are operating in Austin didn’t slow us down in 2013, and it won’t slow us down in 2016.  Part of what makes Austin attractive is that as a community we reject the confrontational approaches so common in some other locations, including Silicon Valley.  We aren’t looking to displace the musicians, artists, hippies, etc. from our city to make it a tech nirvana.  We worry about how to preserve the crucial mix of incomes, skills, careers, arts, and tech that has made Austin so vibrant – and while in some parts of the city we’re failing to preserve it, there are other parts that are rising from destitution and being rebuilt thanks to the economic expansion here. And there are many examples of Austin tech money funding great music (Austin City Limits, ACL Moody Theater, Long Performing Arts Center, SXSW, ACL Fest, many bars and music venues, etc.).

I realize (and we all realize) that Austin is a more challenging environment to:

  • open a restaurant
  • build a building
  • run a ride-for-hire business (pedi cabs have to get fingerprinted!)
  • get permitting for home remodeling or building
  • permits for special events
  • etc.

But those hurdles from government sometimes create something great.  Go to Downtown Austin sometime, and walk around and take note of all the ground-floor bars, restaurants, retail shopping, and coffee shops.  Note the wide sidewalks. 

If you’re wondering where that came from – maybe the folks building high rises in Austin thought it would be a good idea?  Wrong. It came from regulations pushed by Kirk Watson among others, to produce “better streets” in Downtown Austin and make it more livable.  Developers screamed over the extra burdens requiring first floor retail in order to get the height variances they wanted. But the result of each developer sacrificing a bit of first-floor space for pedestrian-friendly uses has been that Austin down town overall has become dramatically more valuable, livable, and interesting. Now when developers open a building downtown, they likely plan first floor retail regardless of the regulations because it seems obviously desirable – but it wasn’t always so.  Just look at the buildings that were built in the 70’s and 80’s…

There are similar stories around those beautiful boardwalks along Lake Lady Bird.

I don’t always agree with the non-tech parts of Austin in the short term. But in the long term, they are a moderating force on our impetuous attempts at progress, one that has given us time to consider, invest, and adapt. We’re all better for it in the long run.