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 Paulo Martins for KUT News

The mayor and City Council voted to waive $3.8 million in fees for White Lodging’s construction of a new convention center hotel in downtown Austin today.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell supports the construction of a convention center hotel as an effort to attract more tourism revenue. He says Austin’s convention center bookings have been declining because its capacity is too low. The mayor says he received interest in booking conventions as soon as rumors started circulating that Austin could expand its convention center space.

Photo of Groupon Now by KUT

The massive daily deals site Groupon is launching a new service in Austin. It’s called Groupon Now, and it allows people to buy coupons for immediate use in their neighborhoods.  You can check out the service here or on a mobile phone app.

In a press release, Groupon says it allows businesses to attract customers when they need them most, “managing the flow of customers in real time.”

Eddie Seal/Texas Tribune

President Obama has praised the potential of American natural gas as “enormous," saying exploration for the energy source was something both Democrats and Republicans could support.

But internal documents from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), obtained by the New York Times, indicate some administration officials fear the natural gas industry is experiencing an investment bubble that “may be set up for failure.”

The three largest cellular carriers in the United States are going to pilot near-field mobile phone technology in Austin next year, according to a statement released yesterday. The review aggregator posted the promotional video above, which offers a decent explanation of the technology.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Gasoline prices in the Austin metropolitan area are down seven cents from last Thursday, according to a report from AAA Texas. A gallon of regular unleaded is selling for $3.583. Last week, it was $3.654. However, that’s still up substantially from a year ago, when the price was $2.625.

Last week, we talked to an oil analyst who said he expects gas prices to drop by as much as 35 cents this summer.

OPEC, however, may have different plans. The oil cartel signaled yesterday that it would not boost oil production. That sent prices for crude oil back above $100 per barrel.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Average gas prices in the Austin-area are down by nine cents from last week. And you should expect them to drop further, according to Tom Kloza. He is the chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, New Jersey. We reached him this afternoon by telephone.

KUT News: What’s your forecast for gasoline prices over the next few weeks?

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Unemployment in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area dropped to 6.5 percent in April from 6.8 percent in March.

Most of the gains in the last month were in service industries.

“Austin gained 2,200 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities [sector], reflecting that statewide increase,”  Texas Workforce Commission spokesman Lisa Givens told KUT News, “As well as leisure and hospitality, which saw 2,500 jobs added over the month in Austin.”

Round Rock-based Dell Incorporated, which employs about 16,000 people in Central Texas, reported first quarter profit of $945 million today.  That compares to $341 million in the same period last year, an increase of 177 percent.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

A company that provides dating services in Austin is coming under fire from the local Better Business Bureau. eLove says on its website that it was voted the #1 matchmaker at an industry conference for two years in a row, but the local BBB says it has received 37 complaints against the business.

Photo by Adam Knight

Even though Central Texas avoided the most severe blows of the national recession, we still experienced our own economic downturn. New data from the state shows we are continuing to bounce back.

Photo by Broken Piggy Bank

AT&T customers trying to upload smartphone video or pictures from E. 6th St. could face much less frustration in the near future. The wireless carrier has announced it is launching a Wi-Fi hotzone that stretches down E. 6th St. from Congress Ave. to Interstate 35.

Photo courtesy

The financial services company Standard & Poor's (S&P) is showing some love for the Texas economy today by granting the state's government bonds an AA+ rating.

In a press release, S&P analyst Horacio Aldrete-Sanchez said it was because the Texas economy is large, diversifying, and growing faster than the country's as a whole.

Photo by Matthew Rutledge

Slowing construction and rising employment will push average Austin rent prices four percent higher this year, according to real estate analyst Marcus and Millichap.

In its 2011 annual apartment forecast, the firm says only 1,000 rental units will be constructed across the entire metro area this year, compared to 2,900 units in 2010. At the same time, the company predicts local employers will add 21,000 positions this year, up from the 14,400 jobs created last year.

Facebook has selected Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco to launch its own version of daily deals coupon sites like Groupon, Living Social, Localiter, and dozens of others.

Photo by KUT News

Ten percent fewer Austin homes were sold in March 2011 compared to March of last year, according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report issued today by the Austin Board of Realtors. But the median price was up two percent to $185,260.

An $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers that expired in 2010 is still making it harder to compare numbers now with numbers then, according to Austin Board of Realtors chair Judith Bundschuh.

Photo by KUT News.

The extra time is running out.  Your income tax return has to be postmarked or electronically received by the Internal Revenue Service by midnight tonight.

Normally, the deadline is April 15.  This year, however, the normal date coincided with Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia.  The IRS announce in January that they were moving things ahead to April 18 for this year.

Photo by KUT News

A survey by the Texas Farm Bureau's "Grocery Price Watch" found that Texans are paying more for some food staple items.

The report shows an increase in prices for pork chops, lettuce and tomatoes between Q4 2010 and Q1 2011. According to Gene Hall, director of public relations for the Texas Farm Bureau, a hard freeze in Mexico earlier in the year was part of the cause, but only a part.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Drivers in the Austin-San Marcos area are paying an average of $3.60 for a gallon of gasoline, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That compares to $3.47 just one week ago. And in those halcyon days of April 2011, we were shelling out a mere $2.69 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Prices have risen 29 percent since then.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin-based Bean Brand Foods, the maker of Beanitos bean chips, says it is looking for a 75,000 square foot facility in Central Texas to combine its manufacturing, warehousing, and administrative facilities. The locally based company says it will seek to hire 150 people towards the end of 2011.

Bean Brand Foods moved its manufacturing facility from Austin to San Bernardino, California in late 2010. But rising shipment costs and a desire to keep the plant closer to its Austin headquarters prompted the company to reverse course.

Photo by Dell

One of the largest employers in Central Texas, Round Rock-based Dell, announced this morning that it will spend $1 billion to build 10 data centers around the world as it seeks to expand into the growing cloud computing market.  Bloomberg reports this morning that the data centers would provide a wide range of services.