Posts Tagged ‘Top News Stores Austin 2013’

“Picking just 10 stories for the year is no easy task in an economy that’s moving as quickly as Austin’s.

Overall, the news from 2013 was positive. The unemployment rate continued to drop. Companies are bringing jobs here fast enough to keep up with equally impressive population growth.

Of course, all of the population growth and rapid expansion have created problems. Traffic is tough, and the city is still a decade away from a solution. Project Connect made big strides, but a handful of transit activists have reminded everyone that the proposed plan wont breeze through a ballot election.

The city continues to tweak its rules and regulations to deal with new and expanded businesses. Some changes have been easy and others, such as a proposed change to the lucrative events business, have companies on edge. A similar plan to restructure Sixth Street’s infrastructure and remake the area has businesses wary.

No 1. National Instruments could get $1.7 million from Austin for major expansion: Austin’s continued growth led the blotter in 2013. Companies continued to move jobs to the Texas Capital. National Instruments’ 1,000 job announcement was the highlight of a year that included 879 new jobs at Flextronics. National Instruments announced it would add 1,000 workers, making it the largest expansion this year. The move also reminded Austinites that incentives aren’t just for California companies. National Instruments was started in 1976 and employs about 2,273 people in North Austin.
No 2. Google reveals high-speed Internet plan in Austin: High-speed Internet is coming to Austin in a big way – both AT&T’s U-verse GigaPower and Google Fiber are promising some of the fastest speeds in the nation. The installation has economic development officials excited and entrepreneurs contemplating what they can do with high speeds. But how will Austin’s business use their new bandwidth? Will the high speeds accelerate business growth in Austin? We’ll begin to see in 2014.
No 3. Austin’s business leaders speak out on urban rail: 2013 was a big year for urban rail news. Project Connect endorsed the Highland and East Riverside corridors and a specific route selection is in the works. Of course, none of that will matter if transit leaders can’t garner enough support to pass a ballot measure funding the project. Austin’s business heavyweights recognize the need for mass transit, but there are some high-profile holdouts among business owners and transit activists.
No 4. East Sixth Street overhaul plans coming together: The city of Austin is drawing up plans to renovate (or is it rehabilitate?) East Sixth Street. The street has been a sore spot for some in Austin who want to see the area cleaned up. But will doing so homogenize another weird part of Austin? Business owners called the work long overdue, but are worried about the effects of construction and have their own ideas about what the remodeled streets should look like.
No 5. X Games mark the spot — for money-making: Austin scored another high-profile event when ESPN announced it would host the 2014-2017 X Games in the Capital City. The games are expected to bring in more than $50 million in economic impact, but those numbers are broad estimates. Can this event add to Austin’s weird reputation, or will Austinites bemoan more national attention and traffic jams?
No 6. Marriott developer files suit against Austin over wage dispute: Austinites have always had some measure of discomfort about tax breaks going to developers and companies. Discontent over the city and state’s economic incentive policy boiled over when the city revoked $3.8 million in waivers granted to the J.W. Marriott developer. This dispute was one of the major reasons the city would later rewrite its incentive policy to require a companies to include living wages and prevailing wages to qualify for incentives deals. Best case scenario: this isn’t a big story in 2014. Worst case: the higher prices drive companies and developers from Austin.
No 7. Council sends controversial event ordinance back for more adjustments: Austin businesses see big returns from the city’s festivals and events, but there has been some clamoring for rewriting how the city regulates those events. The ordinance that went before City Council this year drew criticism from big and small events alike — and was promptly kicked back to next year. Meanwhile, event organizers, neighborhood groups and city code enforcement are trying to strike a balance with new rules that will affect every part of Austin’s lucrative festival culture.
No 8. ABIA flying high with news of London flights, more gates: So there is an “I” in ABIA after all. Austin–Bergstrom International Airport launched a major international flight directly to London Heathrow Airport. The flight is expected to have an economic impact of $69.7 million for the first year and grow to $74 million annually after three years. If successful, it could mean more international flights for ABIA, which has been steadily growing for years but still lacks a major international direct flight offering.
No 9. Residential tower on Lamar clears final zoning hurdle: Turns out it’s possible to build more dense development south of Lady Bird Lake — it just takes a long time. The 96-foot tall 211 Lamar residential building passed City Council after months of postponements and strong opposition from neighbors. Will the city continue to allow developers to ask for more density when it moves to 10-1? Or will the next City Council block efforts that have traditionally been granted? The answer to that question will have big impacts on affordability as well as Austin’s future identity.
No 10. Downtown Austin bike-share locations revealed: The city of Austin invested heavily and gave up vehicle right of way to make room for bike infrastructure in 2013. New and better bike lanes went in across town, often linked to new bus routes. The biggest change was a new bike share system launched 11 stations just before the year ended. But will Austin’s commuters and drivers put down their keys and reach for their helmets? It’s a big ask, and we’ll have a chance to see in 2014.

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