Tech industry puts $21B a year into Austin economy


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 8 at 5:41 PM

AUSTIN -- The tech industry in Austin is booming, and new numbers released Wednesday during the Austin Technology Council Conference show just how much of an impact tech jobs are making.

The city known for "keeping it weird" is also affectionately called a great place to live.

"Any time you mention Austin's name, somebody asks you where you come from; doesn't matter if you're on a plane or wherever you're at, I mean, you've seen the reaction. People's eyes light up," noted Austin City Manager Marc Ott. 

Now, there's another feather that is being added to Austin's cap. Forbes has again listed Austin as one of the top cities to find a job. This year, Austin comes in at number 10. That's a drop from number 1 last year, but still a feat.

"Austin's not a well-kept secret anymore," said Austin business owner Jim Bledsoe.

The ranking is based on short, medium and long-term employment performance, plus growth and momentum. The cities ranked highest have booms in two sectors -- energy and tech.

Austin has tech. Case in point -- the Austin Technology Council (ATC) hosted 150 CEO's from across the state to discuss the future of tech in the city. The big talker was job growth.

"The industry is also looking to hire about 9,000 new employees between now and the year 2017," said ATC President Julie Huls. "And we really encourage anyone and everyone interested in technology who maybe doesn't yet live in Austin, Texas to look us up. We're hiring!"

The challenge is filling those positions. Over the next four years, Austin will need 1,200 software programmers, but according to the ATC, Austin universities graduate just 60 programmers a year. So to fill the jobs, more people will have to move to Austin, driving up the cost of living.

"When you have the type of success that we've had here in Austin, that makes some things more valuable and more costly," said Ott. "We're aware of it. We're all interacting and talking about that affordability issue and coming up with strategies so we can manage that because we want opportunity to be available for everyone in Austin regardless of their level of income."

"So if you want to live downtown, regardless of your level of income, there ought to be an opportunity for you to do that. Or anywhere else in our city," Ott added.

High-tech jobs in Austin pay an average of $115,000 a year compared to $52,000 in other industries, easing the cost of living.

The tech industry pumps $21 billion a year into Austin's economy. That's one-third of the city's economy. 

Austin was not the only Texas city on the Forbes list. Fort Worth-Arlington came in at number 4, the Houston-metro is number 5 and the Dallas-metro is number 6. San Antonio was not far behind the top 10; it was ranked as number 12.

Click here to read the Forbes report on the Best Cities for Jobs.

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