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Existential Q: Is Austin 'On Pause' or in A New Era?

Here's the existential question: is the Austin and Texas economy 'on pause,' to return soon to its January composition? Or are we at an inflection point where, hereafter, economic and technological trends long-underway will rapidly, disjunctively, transform Austin's job market?

Here's where we are today: Austin employers have furloughed and potentially lost tens of thousands of jobs; Texas employers at least one million. So far. There are heartbreaking stories in every one of these furloughs and terminations. Local and state government revenues are hemorrhaging, demands for some types of government services have skyrocketed, small and large business owners are drawing out scenarios for restructuring or winding down. So we have a big hole to fill and we haven't stopped digging.

So if the Austin region's economy has and will continue to change, our governments will also need to rapidly draw out scenarios to meet short-term crises and position Austin and Texas for this new economy. Real estate, e-commerce, training, permitting, regulation, transportation, voting, office and learning space all will operate under new rules. For Austin to grow anew in this new world, we will need to adapt lean, agile start-up business principles to an unprecedented array of ad hoc and sustained entrepreneurial partnerships between the private sector and our governments.

We cannot fail.

We hope physical distancing in Austin and Central Texas has mitigated threats to our community health. The collapse in travel, entertainment, hospitality and retail consumer demand has meant many of the 150,000 of us, our friends and our neighbors in these industries have experienced reduced hours, pay cuts, furloughs or even termination. Like with the virus, the worst is likely still ahead of us.

To slow infection, most of us saw we had a direct role: shelter-in-place. To help weather this immediate economic downturn, what actions should we take? What should we encourage our local, state and Congressional appointed and elected officials to do? How should our region and Texas position ourselves to help jobs return quickly and for us to create the circumstances for relatively stronger growth?

This series of blogs is attempting to throw ideas to the key thought leaders – for public deliberation, to solicit feedback, new ideas and better thinking. This disciplined, immuting, sometimes uncomfortable approach is designed to collectively accelerate our community’s ability to problem move at the speed of relevance.

It's been 28 years since David Osbourne and Ted Gaebler wrote 'Reinventing Government." I’ve been in this space for 25 years with CEOs, elected and administrative leaders. We need to use a new approach to write this together: public and private experts in partnership to achieve a Greater Society.

I welcome your opinions and thoughts as well as

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