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

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For KUT News and Reporting Texas

Another competitor is joining the fiber arms race in Austin.

San Marcos-based Grande Communications says it will begin rolling out its own super-fast Internet service – offering speeds up to 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) – in select Austin neighborhoods starting next week. The service, which Grande is calling “Power 1000,” would cost $65 per month, with no contract or activity monitoring.

As a comparison, Internet speeds of 1 Gbps allow a user to download a full-length film in about 10 seconds, compared to over two minutes with a 50 megabits per second (Mbps), which is generally the top-tier speed offered to consumers by most Internet service providers.

youtube.com/apple

In a neverending battle of one-upmanship it seems — for now at least — Texas has the upper hand over the rest of the nation in the tech game.  

A report from the Tech America Foundation found that Texas surpassed long-time tech export leader California with a total $45.1 billion in tech exports, compared to California's $44.8 billion in exports in 2012. Texas and California also led the nation in tech jobs with 330,977 and 328,301 jobs — 22 percent and 21 percent of the 1.4 million tech jobs in the U.S.

To illustrate the data, we've created an infographic you can see below. 

Saying it is "the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," the CEO of CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that the company's 7,600 pharmacies will stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products by Oct. 1.

Larry Merlo also said CVS will try to help those who want to quit smoking with a "robust national smoking cessation program" at its locations.

Ten years ago, when Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at Harvard, Noah Buyon was only nine years old.

Facebook started out as a site exclusively for college students, so it took Buyon a few years to find out about it. But when his older brothers got accounts, he wanted one too.

"It became kind of the cool thing to have," Buyon says. "I couldn't hold out any more — and I got it, and I've been saddled with it ever since."

Robert Nagle http://flic.kr/p/98bL

The New Braunfels "can ban" is poised to disappear.

The rule prohibits disposable food and beverage containers from the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers inside New Braunfels city limits. It was approved in a city referendum in 2011 to combat litter. Tourism businesses and a Budweiser beer distributor sued.

District Judge Don Burgess, who was assigned the case as a visiting judge after local judges recused themselves, emailed lawyers for both sides Monday, saying he intends to rule in favor of the businesses. Lawyers now have to draft competing rulings, and Justice Burgess will sign one after making any changes.

I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin’s facing a familiar question: whether to approve economic incentives luring new jobs to town.

Today, the Austin City Council was briefed on a proposal for incentives for health IT company Athenahealth.

Massachusetts-based Athenahealth – which currently employs 36 Austinites in offices at The Domain – is promising a new research and development center. Located inside the former Sealholm Power Plant in downtown Austin, the company says it would create 607 new jobs over 10 years.

The credit and debit card data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus compromised more than 70 million American consumers, and analysts say even more of us are at risk. That's because the technology we use to swipe for our purchases — magnetic stripes on the backs of cards — isn't hard for a skilled fraudster to hack.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Less than a year after expanding, an Austin startup is shutting down.

As KUT reported in February of last year, “Outbox picks up its customers’ mail, scans it, and makes it available online. … Outbox workers open and scan letters, catalogs and flyers. Customers log in to Outbox’s website to see their – now-digital – mail.”

At the time, Outbox had expanded its operations into California after testing its service in Austin. But citing a litany of issues impacting its service, Outbox announced today it was ceasing operations.

The holiday season data breach at Target that hit more than 70 million consumers was part of a wide and highly skilled international hacking campaign that's "almost certainly" based in Russia. That's according to a report prepared for federal and private investigators by Dallas-based cybersecurity firm iSight Partners.

And the fraudsters are so skilled that sources say at least a handful of other retailers have been compromised.

"The intrusion operators displayed innovation and a high degree of skill," the iSight report says.

The luxury retailer Neiman Marcus says it has begun notifying customers whose credit cards were compromised during a security breach.

The AP spoke to Ginger Reeder, spokeswoman for Dallas-based company, who would not estimate how many customers could be affected.

Walk through the produce section of your supermarket and you'll see things you'd never have seen years ago — like fresh raspberries or green beans in the dead of winter.

Much of that produce comes from Mexico, and it's the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — which took effect 20 years ago this month.

In the years since, NAFTA radically changed the way we get our fruits and vegetables. For starters, the volume of produce from Mexico to the U.S. has tripled since 1994.

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank

For the nation's economy,  2013 is a story of a continued comeback following a devastating recession. 

And for Texas?  Well, the story's slightly different.  

Keith Phillips, analyst with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank says there's no question 2013 was a good year for the Texas economy with growth in most sectors.

Phillips says the low cost of living, in addition to the low cost of doing business in Texas has helped the Lone Star State maintain a job growth rate a full percentage point higher than the national average in 2013.  But the energy exploration boom that's been fueling an expansion of jobs, construction and exports appears to be tapering off.

Target Corp. acknowledged early Thursday that there was a massive security breach of its customers' credit and debit card accounts starting the day before Thanksgiving and extending at least to Dec. 15 — the heart of the holiday shopping season.

youtube.com/apple

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says Apple’s local manufacturing of the Mac Pro means about 800 new jobs.

“I think it’s another day in the life of a growing city,” he tells KUT News, “but it’s a big day in the life of Austin, because as you know, Apple is a premiere company around the world. When they make an important step like this here in our city, that’s going to be heard around the world to our advantage.”

Apple has already announced it’s building a $300 million operations center in Northwest Austin. For that project, Apple is receiving a $21 million grant from the state, over $8 million from the city and $6 million from Travis County

Original story (11:58 a.m.): Apple’s new Mac Pro is being manufactured in Austin.

(This post was last updated at 3:50 p.m. ET)

Citing an improving economy, the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would begin gradually paring back an $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program aimed at stimulating growth.

The move was seen as a tentative vote of confidence and comes amid an improving jobs picture and other positive signs as the U.S. continues struggles to emerge from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Spot On Sciences

In baseball, the crowd holds its breath, waiting for the pitch.

In the business world, pitching is similar: suspense can be a killer, and ideas often get knocked down. Scrappy start-ups and venture capital abound in the modern economy, but success isn’t always guaranteed.

Dr. Jeanette Hill, CEO of Spot On Sciences and home blood test HemaSpot knows pitching – and it's nothing like what you’ve seen on "Shark Tank."

“You’ve got about 60 seconds, sometimes up to two minutes,” she tells KUT’s David Brown. “You have to get your idea across, you have to sell the audience … get it out there without stumbling.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Google has been traveling the U.S., showing off its wearable computing device Google Glass.

This weekend Google is bringing Glass to Austin. It's an unique opportunity to get  firsthand experience with the divisive device - which has inspired strong reactions among many who have yet to use it. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austinites got a taste of California yesterday with the opening of the city’s first In-N-Out Burger at 45th and Airport. The drive thru is known for made-to-order burgers and an ordering system that allows you to micromanage your meal. (Want your bun extra toasted? Just ask.) 

In-N-Out Burger has no freezers. No microwaves. No heat lamps. And In-N-Out has been quietly going against another trend in the low-wage, low-benefit fast food industry: they're paying their employees much more than the industry standard. 

flickr.com/financialtimes

Social media giant Twitter announced Thursday that Marjorie Scardino – Texarkana native, Baylor grad and former Pearson CEO – is joining its board of directors. Scardino is the first woman to be appointed to Twitter’s board.

Scardino received a little more than 4,000 shares of Twitter to serve on its board, according to SEC filings. She comes onboard after the company was criticized for not having women in high company positions. Twitter went public in November and is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion.

Scardino led educational publishing company Pearson for more than 10 years until 2012. During that time, she tripled its profits to a record $1.5 billion.

President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."

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