Business

Economics, employment, jobs, real estate, taxes, economic development and incentives, workforce development, IPOs, investment and anything related to business in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program offers grants for companies who hire Texans for projects in-state. The Coen Brothers' True Grit was filmed in Texas, largely due to the state's incentives.


Does It Pay To Be A Woman In Texas?

Aug 25, 2015
Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov/Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

State officials like to brag about the strong economy here and the thousands of people who move here every month. But some of the major inequities in the Texas economy are consistently underplayed, like the fact that in Texas, women don't make as much money as men who are doing the same job. One report estimates that women are paid just 79 cents for every dollar men make in Texas.


Flickr/ Marco40134 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Far from the original spindletop, a group of maverick Texas farmers are trying to make money on a whole different kind of oil: olive oil. For years, folks in South Texas have harvested olives, planting tens of thousands of acres of trees. Now, they say, it’s time for growth.

Demand for the oil both at home and abroad is high, and the trees growing in some of the world’s biggest producers – Spain, Italy – have been hard-hit this year with drought and disease. Is it time for Texas olive oil, then?

The All-Nite Images/flickr

More than 360,000 Texans make $7.25 an hour or less, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only five states have a higher percentage of minimum wage workers than Texas.

Big corporations like Walmart and McDonalds recognize that, for many workers, $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on. Both companies have announced they'll increase their workers' pay this year.

But what happens when wages go up, and they're still not enough to live on?

John Jordan/Texas Tribune

Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries is getting a cash infusion that the company says will "ensure" the return of its ice cream to the market. The creamery announced Texas businessman Sid Bass has become a partner, though it did not say how much he’s investing.

“We are pleased Sid Bass has made a significant investment with our company. The additional capital will ensure the successful return of our ice cream to the market and our loyal customers,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and President, in a press statement posted on bluebell.com.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

It doesn't matter if it's 100 degrees out or it's raining – if you want to eat at Austin's Franklin Barbecue you have to wait in a line for an average of about five hours. That's no secret.

But in the last year, a growing number of people, like Desmond Roldan, have started making money off of that line. And for them, the longer the line, the better.

To Buy A House, You Might Need an English Major

May 20, 2015
crdot/flickr

A Houston homeowner is holding an essay contest to sell his historic bungalow for $150. There’s a catch, however: The house, valued at $400,000, will go to the person with the best 200-word essay. The owner hopes to get 3,000 applications by mid-June to part with the house at market value.

Verizon Communications has agreed to pay $4.4 billion to buy AOL Inc.

In a press release, Verizon said the all-cash acquisition will help build its digital and video platforms.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

Why Can't My iPhone Speak Spanglish?

Apr 30, 2015
mirandagranche/flickr

A lot of Texans switch back and forth between English and Spanish effortlessly, without even thinking about it. But if you’re typing on an iPhone, switching between the language keyboards mid-sentence is a big hassle. With more and more multilingual users, why isn’t one of the top smartphones up to the task?

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

As the city prepares for the international mobs of South by Southwest, one small but growing industry is doing some last-minute tinkering.

The nation’s first cash-dispensing bitcoin ATM was installed about a year ago at HandleBar on E. Fifth St., just in time for SXSW last year. But for the last few months it’s been out of service, in need of a software upgrade. Sheldon Weisfeld, CEO and co-founder of CoinVault ATM, went in Monday to make the necessary repairs.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

It seems like everywhere you look, there's a construction site in Austin, complete with the unofficial state bird of Texas, the construction crane.

Some are calling it a boom, but it's a boom that’s not exclusive to Austin. Whether you drive south to San Marcos or north to Georgetown, there are new buildings popping up all over Central Texas.

That boom has certainly been good for the economy and overall employment numbers, but, for some smaller construction firms it’s been tough-going trying to compete with larger outfits that can afford to pay workers up to $35 an hour.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

While the technology now exists for people to 3D print parts and build untraceable “ghost guns” in their own homes, they need to order some of the manufacturing equipment from companies or organizations like Austin-based Defense Distributed.

Which means Defense Distributed needs to ship that equipment. But in the past week, both FedEx and UPS have said they refuse to allow DD's founder Cody Wilson to ship orders for Ghost Gunners, machines that allow people to manufacture firearms components.

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/12700-Hughes-Park-Rd_Austin_TX_78732_M80803-44996

Homes worth more than $1 million sold at a faster pace last year in the Austin-area than they did 2013. In a new report, the Texas Association of Realtors says "luxury home sales" were up by 9 percent between January and October. That amounted to 479 homes sold. 

Those homes make up a small fraction of the overall housing market, just two percent of the 23,700 places sold over the time period. Homes over $1 million are also taking longer to sell -- five months, on average -- compared to an average of 40 days for the Austin market as a whole.

flickr.com/cheeseroc

There's a good chance that you'll be invited to an "Ugly Sweater" Christmas party this year. If you didn't save yours from the '80s, there's pop-up stores all over Texas meeting the demand.

But is the ugly bubble about to burst?

Today is the third annual National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. The garish garments have been around since the 1950s, when they were originally considered (unironically) beautiful. Chevy Case help lead the kitschy sweater comeback in the '80s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

How To Get $1 Million From Mark Cuban

Oct 31, 2014
Giphy / Gipyh

Many people dream of being their own boss, but starting a successful business isn't easy. Eight out of ten businesses fail in the first 18 months. Even with a proven concept, it can be hard to find investors to back your product. An Austin boxed wine company is hoping to defy the odds with a one million dollar investment from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

You might have read or seen one of the many news reports this week on the economic impact of Austin's Circuit of the Americas track.

A report commissioned by the track found that it had a nearly $1 billion impact on the local economy over the last year. That's a big number, nearly three times as much as the estimated economic impact of South By Southwest.

But what does it mean, really? What are we talking about when we talk about economic impact?

I put that question and more to Ben Lofstgaarden of Greyhill Advisors, the firm commissioned by Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to do the report (and the same firm that does annual reports on SXSW's economic impact).

"What's unique about the impact [report] that we did for COTA is that it wasn't just for one single event," he says. "It was for the whole suite of activities that they do over the course of the year." 

So it's not just Formula One, it's also all the other races, concerts and events like the X Games held at COTA throughout the year. (COTA is a separate entity from Formula One – F1 is the race, COTA is the venue.) The actual direct economic impact of all of that – dollars that can be traced directly from the track into the economy? It's $515 million. So how do you go from that to nearly a billion dollars of economic impact? There's some nuance to the numbers.

Saying that he "clarified how to understand and regulate industries with a few powerful firms," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in economic sciences to Jean Tirole, who teaches at the Toulouse School of Economics. He studies oligopolies, markets that are controlled by a handful of powerful (and interdependent) companies.

"I was very surprised, I was incredibly surprised," Tirole said shortly after he received the phone call informing him of the win. "The honor... it took me half an hour to recoup from the call. I still haven't recouped yet."

https://flic.kr/p/aQtkzi

Investors who want to buy into the legal marijuana industry are gathering this weekend in Houston. Organizers say it's the first marijuana investor conference in Texas. 

Even though marijuana is illegal in Texas, it's not necessarily against the law to invest in aspects of the business in one of the 23 states that have permitted it for medical or recreational use.

"If you are touching the plant, and you're in Texas, you may have a problem," organizer Doug Leighton says. "If you're doing the ancillary businesses and products, then I think you have a clear pathway to invest."

Nathan Bernier/KUT

  Google offered an update earlier this week on its the impending high-speed, gigabit internet services coming to Austin.

But the announcement also came with an apology.  Google plans to buildout of 3,000 miles of fiber, and warned of impending inconveniences as contractors tinker with utility poles dig tunnels to bury the fiber.

Gabriel Cristover Perez/KUT

A new study from Standard & Poor’s suggests that income inequality is leading to lower state tax revenues in Texas. The study also finds inequality weakens overall economic growth, with a stronger effect in states like Texas that depend on sales tax revenues.

Still, the state has seen expanded growth in average tax revenue, the study said – 5.48 percent revenue growth from 2000 to 2009 compared to the 4.07 percent in sales tax-dependent states and 5.25 percent growth in income tax-dependent states.

The credit-rating agency says the growing gap slows potential growth and lowers the growth of the state's overall tax base, which is “stronger and only statistically significant” in sales tax-reliant states. The inequality could prove problematic in future budgeting, as S&P says Texas can’t correct the problem by simply raising taxes.

Texas currently has the sixth highest level of income inequality, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the state’s lowest earners have seen their incomes drop 10 percent in the last decade. 

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