Austin: The Rise of Silicon Hills

May 23, 2013

Austin, Texas has been nicknamed Silicon Hills, comparing it to Silicon Valley in California. The rapid growth of entrepreneurship and innovation fueled by technical colleges and major universities has listed Austin as one of the next biggest boom towns in the United States. 

Forbes measured the factors of success for Austin; annual population growth 3%, job growth 3%, unemployment 4.9% and an economy that has expended 6.3% last year. It is no wonder why Austin is ranked #1 in Forbes’ America’s Fastest Growing Cities for the third straight year. 

About Austin 

According to the Census Bureau, Austin has a population of 820,611. However, the entire metro area, which includes other locales like Round Rock and San Marcos, has an estimated population of nearly a million more residents—1,783,519. 

Dell is one of Austin’s largest employers. It is also host to big-name high-tech companies such as 3M, HP, Google, Applied Materials, Xerox, Facebook, eBay, Apple, Cisco System, and many others. 

These companies are here because of the region’s activities that has made this city a global innovation hub. Austin has an almost perfect combination of educational pathways, employment opportunity, low cost of living, high quality of life. This keeps leading individuals to want to stay in Austin to live, work, and play. 

Innovation 

For entrepreneurs, access to technological resources and capital are important. Innovate Texas Foundation (ITF) is one of many organizations offering those services. ITF focuses on promoting economic opportunities in sectors such as advanced technologies, aerospace & defense, energy, information technologies, life sciences, media & arts, and petroleum & chemicals 

Austin was recently ranked 7th on a list of the top cities for women entrepreneurs. NerdWallet, Inc. analyzed the economies, education levels, and the number of existing businesses owned by women to come up with this list, and nearly all of these marks, Austin performed very well. 

On this point, Austin Women in Technology (AWT) provides resources and opportunities to women in the technology and entrepreneurship field. It actively organizes to educate and empower women through a series of programs such as workshops, conferences, volunteer opportunities, and mentoring. 

Higher Education 

Each year, the University of Texas-Austin awards approximately 12,000 degrees. Students in many of these programs are involved with high-impact fields, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. St. Edwards University, Concordia University-Texas, and Southwestern University are among other institutions offering higher education degrees in the Austin region. 

Furthermore, Austin Community Colleges serves as a gateway to technical and vocational career as well as bridges to four-year degree programs. Some of the academic programs include coursework and skills development in areas such as automotive technology, biotechnology, engineering computer-aided design, computer information technology, electronics and advanced technologies, and health information technology. Individuals with these types of skill-sets are critical to employers in the Greater Austin region. 

Employers 

Yearly tech growth continues to place Austin in the top 5 among U.S. cities. According to Dice.com, the number of local tech job advertised rose by 16 percent. 

Last year, General Motors (GM) pledged to hire 500 new employees to staff the first of four new IT Innovation Centers in the United States. Many of these positions are for software developers, project managers, database experts, business analyst, and other information technology professionals. 

GM Chief Information Officer Randy Mott stated that the locations for the innovation center were chosen by looking at IT talent-rich areas that also offer a strong community, lower cost of living, prestigious higher-level schools and a high-tech industry presence. Austin fit this bill. 

“I believe having the right mix of professionals and students working on innovative solutions are a powerful combination,” Mott said. “Having the right combination really puts you in a position of the right kind of energy.” 

Perhaps you are ready or looking to launch a startup company. With a heavy concentration of innovation and entrepreneurship, Austin was named the Best City for Young Entrepreneurs

Lifestyle 

It is no wonder that Austin is the third-fastest-growing city in the nation, attracting large numbers of college grads, immigrants, and families with young children. 

The area ranked top ten for market with the fastest-selling homes and most affordable. According to the H+T Affordability Index, $57,109 was the average earning in the Austin area. The average housing cost to income ratio is 26.38%, which is less than the housing affordability standard of 30%. 

And last but not least, I must mention the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival, an annual gathering of music, films, and emerging technologies. 

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Series Finale 

This is the final installment of the InnovateCity Project, where we explored emerging cities fueled by entrepreneurships and innovations. In case, you miss it, here are the links to highlights of other cities: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Miami, and Detroit. I hope that these cities, along with others, can continue to leverage their resources to allow others to duplicate their innovation models and ultimately build a network of technology-based hubs all across the United States. 

Also, be sure to follow Nate and Joe as they commence the “On the Road With Free Enterprise” journey looking at free enterprise principles and business in 15 cities across America. 

About InnovateCity Project 

An analysis on venture capital, entrepreneurialism, technology, R&D, research and development, new business, startups, exports and more. Topics include venture capital, entrepreneurs, cluster mapping, research and development, patents, manufacturing, broadband deployment, STEM attainment, technology transfer, and much more.