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  • Robert Farago

Has Austin Lost its Luster?

Wherein the author announces his departure

Is the Texas boom town of Austin losing its luster? Yes, columnist Mary Ann Azevedo answers. Make that insinuates. The writer’s anti-Austin article’s short on facts, long on prevarication. Here’s Ms. Azevedo’s pro-Silicon Valley salvo…

As the years have gone by, it appears that some have lost their enchantment with Austin, to the point where companies and founders are also leaving or looking to leave the city. The summers are brutal — 2023’s was the hottest on record with 78 days of triple-digit temperatures.
The startup scene, some argue, is lackluster. And funding — especially for midsize companies — can be hard to come by. A perceived lack of diversity is also an issue.
People who moved here for affordability reasons quickly realized the city was not as inexpensive as they expected — especially when it came to housing.

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting Ms. Azevedo’s weasel words for J-school wannabes who’ve yet to attend a spin class.

Who may also wish to note that her work lacks any actual data on the capitol’s economic health, and links to an article on Houston’s weather (whose higher humidity and greater rainfall make it a lot less pleasant than Austin).

In fact, Ms. Azevedo’s based her editorial on cherry-picked anecdotal evidence from a handful of disaffected Austonian tech types. Here’s my favorite:

Mike Chang, a 30-year-old founder and angel investor, told Business Insider earlier this year that he regretted moving from Los Angeles to Austin during the pandemic. “Austin is where ambition goes to die,” he told the publication.

If Austin’s alternative catchphrase is true, what does that say about Mr. Chang’s ability to perform due diligence for his investors?

Anyway, it’s not true, as a quick look at the Austin Chamber of Commerce website’s “announced relocations to the Austin MSA & expansions of existing area employers” demonstrates.

If you expand your search to areas within striking distance of Austin (e.g., Samsung’s $17b semiconductor plant in Taylor), it’s clear the summer from Hell did nothing to break Austin’s boom town fever.

All that said – and unsaid – Austin has changed dramatically in the last ten years. It’s gone from a small town (where you couldn’t avoid casual conversation with total strangers) to a big city (America’s tenth largest).

Today’s Austonians face all the challenges big city living entails: traffic, higher housing costs, crime, homeless folk and California immigrants. Sadly, whoever was in charge of keeping Austin weird has left for an Indian ashram.

On the positive side, there’s been a dramatic increase in world class cuisine and live music. Austin is now home to a Formula One racetrack and a soccer stadium. Not to mention bars and bodegas filled with more beautiful women and handsome men than you can shake a stick at (so to speak).

And yet… I’m blowing this popsicle stand.

It’s not you, Austin. In case you missed it, I reject Ms. Azevedo’s characterization of Austin as an over-priced racist hellhole. It’s me.

Since I first flew the nest for college, I’ve uprooted myself every ten years or so. I like to think the wandering Jew routine reflects restless curiosity. A desire to challenge myself with new relationships and experiences.

I reckon the Doobie Brothers offer a more accurate analysis.

In any case, Ms. Azevedo’s article did the EABS FANS thing (Even A Blind Squirrel Finds A Nut Sometimes). This summer was brutal. I found myself longing for a temperate climate, forests, mountains, rolling hills, the sea. You know, outdoors shit.

I’m thinking of following the TTAG writer who lured me to Austin, a data driven-guy whose moving matrix steered him to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Two hours from the sea, two hours to the mountains, excellent restaurants, low taxes and a couple of cigar bars. Done!

I’m saving final judgement until after a visit. Makes sense right? Any pre-Raleigh recce advice or suggestions for an alternative 10-20 would be most welcome.

Meanwhile, rest assured that Austin’s luster lingers. It still offers a Texas blend of rugged individualism, community spirit and musical expression. It still welcomes tons of tech types who know a business-friendly environment when they see one.

Soon to be in my Gold Wing’s rear-view mirror.


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