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

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People bought more stuff in Austin this year than they did in the first three months of 2010, according to sales tax figures released today by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.  The comptroller reports that Austin is receiving 4.35 percent more in sales tax revenue compared to January-March 2010. However, if you compare March 2010 with March 2011, the increase was a nominal 0.05 percent.

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One of the largest companies based in Central Texas, Freescale Semiconductor, says it is closing a manufacturing plant in earthquake ravaged Sendai, Japan.

The company made the announcement in a statement posted on its website:

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We can still haggle over who has the better barbeque, but Kansas City, Kansas will indisputably have faster internet service in the very near future. Google has chosen KCK for its ultra high-speed broadband project.  From the official Google blog:

Ben Philpott

Single family homes are sitting on the market for 27 percent longer than they were in February 2011, according to a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report issued today by the Austin Board of Realtors in cooperation with the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Dallas-based AT&T shocked investors yesterday with its offer to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.  AT&T employs more than 36,000 people in Texas.  T-Mobile has more than 2,000 employees in Dallas alone, according to the Dallas Morning News.  We asked AT&T how the merger might affect jobs at what could soon be the largest cell phone company in the United States.

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Texas consumers face the 10th highest cell phone rate in U.S., according to a new study from the Tax Foundation.

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Today's bone chilling winds are no friend to the city's food trucks, but occasional bad weather is not stopping the rapid growth of mobile food vendors in Austin.

Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services, which runs food permitting and restaurant inspection, says 386 permits were issued since August 2010. Of those, 253 permit holders have actually opened new mobile food establishments.

KUT News

Travis County wants to become an economic stimulator. At their regular meeting, county commissioners discussed a proposal to amend the county tax code in order to offer an incentive for businesses that want to relocate to Travis County. The City of Austin and the State of Texas have similar programs, but commissioners are proposing something different.

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The national unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 9% in January.  But the country only added 36,000 jobs.  The decrease came in part because of an increase people not looking for work, what the U.S. Department of Labor calls "marginally attached and discouraged" workers.  The manufacturing and retail sectors were added the most jobs.  Construction, transportation and warehousing shed the most jobs.

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Temperatures are expected to dip into the upper teens this week as an arctic blast bares down on Central Texas. The deep freeze will make life tough for homeless people and their pets, and Austin's food truck entrepreneurs have also been suffering from winter weather.

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A local blog sponsored by the real estate firm Urban Space claims sales of condominiums in Austin increased by a whopping 50 percent in 2010. delved into MLS listings and said sales increased from 112 condos in 2009 to 168 in 2010. The average price increased from $330,344 in 2009 to $343,983 last year, a gain of four percent.

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The company that manages most of the retail space in the Second Street District downtown says it expects to reach a high water mark this year. AMLI Residential says 80 percent of the square footage is currently rented, and that should grow to 92 percent "by the end of the second quarter," according to AMLI retail manager Carrie Holt.

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We received more hard data today showing how more people are moving to Austin and looking for work.  The latest unemployment survey from the Texas Workforce Commission shows the workforce in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area increased from 892,700 in December 2009 to 909,300 last month, a difference of 16,600.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

If you haven't made time lately to visit the beleaguered Highland Mall, you are not alone. Close to half of the mall's retail space is unleased, and it is about to lose its Macy's anchor store.  KUT News sent freelance photographer Jeff Heimsath to the mall to take some pictures so you can see how deserted it has become. Check out our slideshow.

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The latest fuel price report from AAA says Austin gas prices have risen to an average of $2.91 for a gallon of regular unleaded. That's up about 10 cents from last month and almost 30 cents higher than it was this week last year. And most signs point to gas prices climbing even higher.

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Advanced Micro Devices, a California-based chip maker with substantial operations in Austin, is losing  CEO Dirk Meyer.

In an official statement posted on the AMD blog, it sounds like the board thought they could get someone better to run the company.

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As some brick-and-mortar book retailers struggle to remain profitable in the digital age, Dallas-based Half Price Books announced it will start selling its used books on its website.

Image courtesy Kari Sullivan/Flickr

Austin Community College announced this afternoon that it has bought the 13-acre Macy's property at Highland Mall.

ACC is paying $5 million for the site and plans to renovate the retail space to potentially include classrooms, administrative offices and a conference center.

In a press release, ACC president/CEO Dr. Stephen Kinslow said the space would be used for future expansion: