“Live Music Capital of the World,” is a prominent moniker for Austin over the past several years, bolstered by major events like the Austin City Limits Festival and South By Southwest each year. More importantly, there is live music in dozens of venues every night — on vaunted 6th Street and all over town. This is a huge part of what makes Austin Austin, but there is so much more ….
Several years ago, “Silicon Hills” was a label that attached here, and it represented several years that cemented Austin as a high-tech city. The successful attraction of MCC (Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation) and Sematech (Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology) were important catalysts, and Motorola Semiconductor (later Freescale), AMD, and Samsung made substantial investments in facilities and people here. Add home-grown Dell Computer and major facilities for IBM, Applied Materials, and others, and the technology-driven business culture was secure. During the go-go time of the dot-com boom the high-tech attraction expanded and Austin became known as a place where entrepreneurs and growing companies are welcome.
Throughout the current (soon to be past?) recession, the Austin area has performed better than most, continuing to add jobs and to attract people and companies. I have posted over the past week a number of articles about some of the most recent growth announcements (Recession? Yes, but it’s great to be in Austin! and More expansion in Austin). Building on that theme, there is a cultural foundation for this success and several recent articles help to showcase that element:
Begin with a recently announced expansion of a major corporation here: AT&T lab adding space, jobs in Austin. There is limited detail at this point: “The space will be a Mobility Technology Lab, said Kathryn McClelland, a spokeswoman for AT&T, but the company is not yet providing details about what work will be performed there. AT&T has a testing lab with about 300 employees and contractors in the Arboretum area, said Pat Orman of AT&T corporate real estate. At that lab, manufacturers submit new wireless devices, including smartphones and tablets, for AT&T to test and certify for use on its network, which is the largest in the U.S.” Might this be the kind of facility that would attract major cell phone manufacturers to expand their local presence here as well? Time will tell, but testing labs of this kind in other technology sectors have produced that kind of growth here in the past.
Regarding some newer, but established firms: 2011 could be a breakout year for Austin IPOs. “So far, four Central Texas companies have filed for initial public offerings, and two more are considered strong possibilities. The list at present — Freescale Semiconductor, HomeAway Inc., Newgistics Inc. and Thermon Group Holdings Inc. — could not be more different, representing chip, Internet, logistics and industrial sectors. Two of the companies are promising up-and-comers, and two are a half-century old.”
Expansion of a newer participant in Austin’s business climate says something about why this kind of growth continues: How Facebook transplanted its culture from California to Austin. “A year ago, Facebook had no one in Austin. Now, Austin is Facebook’s biggest U.S. office outside Palo Alto, with about 110 sales and operations workers — most hired locally …. Facebook chose Austin because it needed that support office in the middle of the country, more in sync with other U.S. time zones, and the company liked the wealth of local talent, thanks to the University of Texas and Austin’s tech history.”
Finally, an upcoming local conference brings “old” and “new” together: Austin conference will link gamers with potential investors. “The day before the conference, AMD will host the Game On! Texas development symposium, featuring former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speaking about her new Web-based education project iCivics, as well as legendary Austin game developer Warren Spector,” and at the gaming conference itself, “Participants and speakers range from Brett Butler of developing-publishing giant Electronic Arts to representatives from smaller venture capital firms, such as Chris Shonk of Austin’s Liahona Ventures. Another participant is Frank Coppersmith, CEO of Austin-based GameSalad Inc., which helps people create and publish Web-based games. The company announced last week that it had raised $6.1 million from Steamboat Ventures, which is the venture capital arm of the Walt Disney Co.”
Innovation, entrepreneurship, investment, and growth are cultural mainstays in Austin. Being the Live Music Capital and all that that means to the community is an important part of this city, as is the moderate weather, Texas Hill Country, the Highland Lakes, and our central location with easy access to the rest of the state. All of these factors work together to make Austin the dynamic community it is, and these articles and many others tell the stories that make the future look bright.