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Austin’s Potential Competitive Advantages

In the previous blog post, I outlined a few steps (and welcomed your thoughts) that you and employers can take to mitigate some of the economic damage being wrought in households during this time of concern. In this blog, I wanted to count our blessings for living in the Austin region as we build on our strengths and help get people not just back to work, but back to work with more skills to earn an income.

The Austin region had several advantages BEFORE going into the downturn:

  1. The 2nd highest job creation rate among top 50 Metros.

  2. 50,000 job openings and 30,000 looking for work.

  3. High school employment at relatively high rates.

  4. Government Employment - 1 of 6 employed by some level of government.

  5. Robust public and private infrastructure projects in the pipeline to catch up with population demands, to include public school, road, bridge and highway construction.

  6. Decent Venture Funding to aid company scaling in key sectors. The Austin market is 7th among US regions, with $1.7B in 2019 (but still only 1.5% of national total).

  7. Population Growth – We are in unprecedented times. Since 1880, however, the Austin market has grown in population each year by approximately 3.5%, which can provide economic activity just to meet new consumer demand.

  8. Statesman tracked these and more here.

  9. What else are we missing Email

In the Great Recession of 2008-2009, many of these same assets helped the Austin Metro become the last to go into a recession and the first to regain lost employment. This helped our home and business property retain more of its value, while others on the Coasts saw double digit drops.

That doesn’t mean economic times ahead won’t be difficult. Just like you, I am hearing from Austin area friends and neighbors that their hours are being reduced, they are being furloughed and terminated. For context, nationally, economists predict that nearly 50% of jobs in accommodations, entertainment and food services are projected to be lost at least temporarily, (for reference, Austin region has approx. 125,000 jobs in hospitality and leisure). This would have been worse without the massive federal $2.2 Trillion spending package to prop up consumer spending. Austin is and will face pain from the immediate crisis as well as the long-term innovations caused by digitization and machines.

This makes it that much more important that as the Austin and Texas regions contemplate the stages to reopening parts and then all of our economy, we need our government and academic leaders to anticipate and take bold actions to rapidly retrain and re-employ unprecedented numbers of the unemployed, which I will explore in the next blog post. They also need to explore their role in cultivating entrepreneurship and start-up development in this new economy with new needs and new opportunities as well as pitfalls.

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