Update: KUT's Kate McGee appeared on WBUR's Here and Now to discuss governments pitching themselves at SXSW.
Original story (March 12): At South by Southwest, tech companies may come to pitch the next big mobile app or hardware, but city governments are also here to pitch themselves as the best place to create that next big app.
“There’s a collision of all the kinds of people were trying to attract, talented engineers looking for their next great opportunity, companies looking for a place to grow, or investors seeking deal flow," says Jenifer Boss, the director of business development with the deputy mayor’s office in Washington D.C.. "And we want to take advantage of having all those people in one place."
For years, cities and countries have brought people to the festival to promote musical artists who hail from those places. But as the festival continues to expand, that idea is spreading to other areas like tourism and economic development.
The D.C. mayor’s office started coming down to Austin for SXSW last year.
“Our goal is to actually create largest innovation and global high tech hub in the world," says Erin Horne McKinney, who also works for the D.C. deputy mayor.
Walking around on the trade floor of SXSW, it’s obvious D.C. isn’t the only city – or country – with this idea. Michigan, Berlin, Argentina and Canada are all represented. They’re handing out refrigerator magnets, pins and t-shirts hawking themselves as great places to live, work or visit.
This year, Chicago joined their ranks. The Chicago mayor’s office organized a three-pronged effort to promote the city in music, film and business tech.
"In the economic development world, we want companies to come to Chicago," says Jake Trussell, creative director at World Business Chicago. "We're here just networking and meeting people and talking to them about Chicago and seeing if they have any interest. And many people do."
But Trussel says they’re not trying to poach businesses from Texas or other cities.
"It's not like we’re trying to get Texas companies to come to Chicago. We’re just trying to show how great Chicago is to the world.”
Officials in Washington D.C. hold similar opinions.
"I don't think that by coming here in various cities, including Washington D.C., aren't stealing companies away from anybody, but rather helping entrepreneurs where they can be most successful," Boss says.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
“We have one company that will remain nameless that is Austin-based and is thinking about coming to D.C.," says Boss’ co-worker, Erin Horne McKinney.
Neither representatives from D.C. or Chicago would say how much it cost to promote themselves at SXSW, although Chicago representatives say most of the money for this trip came from the private sector.