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

Photo by Gerard Stolk vers la Toussaint

Dell’s hopes of regaining the throne of the world’s largest maker of personal computers have been dashed, at least temporarily. Hewlett-Packard says it will no longer spin off its $40 billion PC division.

"The decision was actually very straightforward," HP CEO Meg Whitman said, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The newspaper says HP realized separating its PC division would have cost about $1.5 billion, much more than initial estimates of $300 million to $400 million.

Photo by GDC Europe

Video game mogul and noted space tourist Richard Garriott is selling his Hill Country home in northwest Austin.

The $4.1 million "manor" is described as “captivating and magical” in this RE/MAX listing.

Pipeline Powerhouse? Kinder Morgan To Buy El Paso

Oct 17, 2011

Texas-based energy company Kinder Morgan plans to buy El Paso Corp. in a $20.7 billion deal that's expected to create America's largest natural gas pipeline operator.

The deal would more than double the size of Kinder Morgan's existing pipeline network to 80,000 miles. The company's pipelines in Texas, the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains will be joined to El Paso's vast network which stretches from the Gulf Coast east to New England and west to California.

Photo by WhisperToMe

In an indication of how aggressively energy companies are pursuing underground natural gas, Halliburton is reporting a record breaking quarter, largely based on growth in its North American operations.  

For the first time ever, Halliburton’s operating income in North America exceeded $1 billion. The company said that was mainly because of strong activity in shale rock formations like the Eagle Ford in South Texas and the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana. Halliburton also cited strong activity in the Permian Basin of West Texas.

North America has been experiencing an onshore drilling boom, as companies race to exploit hydraulic fracturing technology, commonly referred to as “fracking”. It involves pumping large amounts of liquid thousands of feet underground to fracture shale rock formations and release natural gas or oil.

Oil field service companies like Halliburton are “like the people that sold the picks and shovels during the gold rush in California,” Houston-based investment banker Allen Brooks told Bloomberg News in June.

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Central Market is going to start experimenting with smaller stores, as it struggles to find retail space in prime locations. The H-E-B-owned gourmet grocery store chain is opening a new location in Dallas next year that is 30,000-square feet, about half the size of its existing stores, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

"I would estimate if the right locations were available for a smaller size footprint, I think we could find several more locations in the Metroplex,” Central Market senior vice president Stephen Butt told the newspaper.

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A wind energy project in Jonestown is on hold after Charlie Malouff Jr., the founder of CM Energies and a former staffer at the state comptroller's office, Mary Jo Woodall, were arrested amid fraud allegations.

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Fear not, Austinites who shop at Lowes. You will still have somewhere to buy that $300 artificial Christmas tree this year without having to visit Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart or some other large retail chain.

Lowes is closing 20 “underperforming stores” across 15 states and laying off 1,950 people. But none of the locations is in Texas, according to a news release from Lowes. The home improvement chain has 14 stores between Round Rock and New Braunfels.

The move to scale back operations comes after Home Depot, Lowe’s main competitor, reported a 16 percent jump in earnings while Lowes reported no growth, the AP reported.  Bloomberg News says the company will provide fired employees with pay and benefits for 60 to 90 days. 

Photo courtesy of Apple


Austin resident Andrew Heller has worked in the technology industry for decades, and was personal friends with Steve Jobs. Heller says Steve visited Austin occasionally. Heller also spent many years in California.

KUT News caught up with Heller and asked him about his late friend.

KUT News: First of all Mr. Heller, our condolences.

Andrew Heller: I think we all were hoping that we’d get one more Christmas with Steve. I wanted to get my son out to see him again. My youngest is named after Steve.

Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

The drought is causing severe shortages of hay across Texas, and that’s making life difficult for people who own horses.

If you can even find someone to sell you hay, you’ll probably have to pay through the nose for it. Stephanie Reed has a few horses in Dale, Texas.

“In 2010, it was still a little high, but the average cost for a round bale of hay was $45 to $50 dollars,” Reed said. “Today, I am paying between $125 and $150.”

It’s just one of the many economic consequences of the worst single-year drought in Texas history.

Photo by Kelley Shannon for KUT News

Texas restaurants are slowly recovering from the recession, but difficult conditions remain because of rising food and utility prices and consumer spending caution, industry officials say.

“It’s still really tough out there,” said Wendy Saari, vice president for marketing with the Texas Restaurant Association.

However, Texas is doing better than some states, with sales projected to grow this year.

Photo by BOKA Powell

If you were wondering what they were building in the northeast corner of the I-35 and Riverside Drive intersection, wonder no more! Developers announced today the construction of what they are calling the “first high-rise residential development” on the southern shores of Lady Bird Lake.

The development is called RiverView. It’s 280,000 square foot project with 302 apartments. Developers are seeking a LEED Silver rating with the building’s water saving plumbing fixtures, use of recycled materials, storm water collection, and other environmentally friendly features.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT

Don’t expect Austin tourism officials to drop the “Live Music Capitol of the World” moniker anytime soon.

A new survey indicates music is still the number one magnet luring tourists to the city.

More than 77 percent of respondents said they “Strongly Agree” that Austin is a destination to enjoy live music, the most positive response of any category. If you include those who “Agree”, the number leaps to 94.2 percent.

Image by Robert Charles Lesser & Co

Lake Travis is an engine for economic activity that pumps $668 million into the local community and supports about 5,200 jobs, according to a new analysis. But low lake levels are draining money from the area.

Specifically, when Lake Travis falls beneath 660 feet above sea level, visitor spending drops by up to $33.8 million, the report by Robert Charles Lesser & Co says. The report was commissioned by Travis County and local business owners, many of whom hope to affect the LCRA's Highland Lakes policy.

 When Lake Travis gets below 650 feet, the study says it’s even worse, “driven by the closure of most of the lake’s boat ramps as well as media attention.”

Lake Travis is currently at 629 feet.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

A group of tubing companies is trying to stop New Braunfels from banning disposable food and beverage containers on the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers. The city ordinance was passed 5-2 in August, but it will face a vote in November after opponents gathered more than the 1,666 necessary to challenge the rule.

The drought has crippled the tourism business along the river, and a coalition of tubing companies that filed the suit in Comal County Court believes the ban will make matters even worse.

Rockin' R River Rides general manager Shane Wolf says his business is down 35 percent. He says his colleagues are reporting similar losses, which, he points out, digs into the city’s tax base.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

After two years of declines, Austin-area tourism rebounded last year to pre-recession levels. That’s according to a new report from the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. The report says 19.8 million people visited the Austin-Round Rock metro area in 2010 (including both day and overnight trips). 

Photo by Texas Farm Bureau

The price of grapefruit in Texas skyrocketed by almost 25 percent from June to September and sliced turkey was up 14 percent. But chicken breast was six percent cheaper over the same time frame and the price of a head of lettuce cost nine percent less.

Average it all out, and Texas food prices were relatively steady over the last three months, according to the Texas Farm Bureau’s Grocery Price Watch report.

Photo illustration by Daniel Reese for KUT News.

The world markets went into free fall today. All major indices fell, the Euro slumped and the dollar rose. Even gold fell. All the turmoil spurred local entrepreneur and business journalist, Mark Dewey, to put it all a poem. Check it out:


A market crash is something like a giant gash

inside my soul.   I was wrong, now I pay,

or maybe I was right but didn't say or didn't take the necessary steps.


"I told you so" I tell myself.  I knew Europe would take us down.

The Secrets Of Whole Foods

Sep 19, 2011

Fast Company visits a Whole Foods in Manhattan to explain how the store creates the illusion of freshness:

Photo by KUT

Texas experienced a net job loss of 1,300 this month, causing the August unemployment rate to tick up to 8.5 percent from 8.4 percent in July.  A year ago, Texas’ unemployment rate was 8.2 percent.

Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken blamed a “stagnant national economy” for the job losses, but most of the cuts were in local government. About 11,500 positions were eliminated at municipalities and counties in August.  The state government added 1,700 jobs and the federal government increased its workforce in Texas by 400.

Meanwhile, Texas’ private sector added 8,100 jobs last month.

When two big companies announce plans to merge, there's always grumbling about what it will do to the market and especially the consumer.

The Justice Department said today that it would try to block the merger of AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA Inc. because it would "substantially lessen competition" in the wireless market.