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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Time to crack open your recipe books, food entrepreneurs. A bill signed into law by Governor Perry overhauls regulation of so-called “cottage food businesses” to allow people to sell more products directly to consumers from more places: not just from their homes, but also at farmers markets, festivals, fairs and other events. The law takes effect September 1. 

There are a few qualifications to the law, along with a list of banned foods, so here's an easy to digest breakdown of House Bill 910.

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Austin-based Whole Foods Market says it will revisit its policy on speaking foreign languages after two Albuquerque employees claimed they were suspended for speaking Spanish to each other while on the job.

Whole Foods said, in a bilingual statement on the company's website, that the two were not suspended for speaking Spanish. Instead, the company claims they were actually disciplined for "rude behavior."  The company says the two erroneously believed that they had been told not to speak Spanish by a manager, and became upset.

courtesy Dell Inc.

One of the largest employers in Central Texas is rejecting a buyout offer from billionaire Carl Icahn.

A special committee of Dell’s board says it would rather investors accept a $24 billion buyout offer from company founder Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners. That plan would take the company private.

Icahn’s plan would have kept Dell as a publicly traded company.

Starbucks is moving its smoking ban outdoors.

Starting Saturday, according to signs posted in its more than 7,000 shops across the U.S. and Canada, "the no-smoking policy ... will include outdoor areas."

"Smoking will be restricted within 25 feet of the store and within outdoor seating areas," the notices read.

KUT News

You know those property tax breaks that Austin uses to lure companies like Apple and Visa to town? A Washington, D.C., group says the city is doing a pretty good job of letting us know how those deals pan out.

The nonprofit research center Good Jobs First gave Austin’s program 100 out of 100 for disclosing annual activity online and for providing third-party audits of each company receiving taxpayer incentives. 

Huma Munir, KUT News

The tech news website TechCrunch is in Austin hosting a competition looking for the next big ideas.

At Pitch-Off, startups and individuals make minute-long pitches to a panel of judges. It’s already made stops in Chicago, Seattle, Toronto and Boston.

Financial advisor S. Mark Powell ran the Austin office of money management firm Atlantic Trust until his death on May 16.

Powell's body was found in a cemetery in Mason County, where the cause of death has not been determined.  Sheriff Buster Nixon says that a final ruling will be made after toxicology tests come back, but that "everything (he's) seen is consistent with a self-inflicted wound."

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Austin area home sales jumped by 32 percent in April compared to the same month last year. The Austin Board of Realtors says 2,563 single-family homes were sold last month.

That marks a nine-year high for the month of April, and it represents the twenty-third straight month of year-over-year sales increases. 

The news that broke Sunday is now official.

Yahoo confirmed early Monday morning that it is buying Tumblr in a deal worth about $1.1 billion. "Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up, Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business," Yahoo added.

In its statement announcing the deal, Yahoo says that:

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Austin’s economy added 30,500 jobs over the last year. The latest employment report shows the jobless rate dropped to 5.1 percent last month from 5.6 percent in April 2012. 

The recent job growth happened as more people were moving to the Austin-area looking for work. The civilian labor force grew by more than 27,000 in the past 12 months.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is looking to sell Austin abroad.

Yesterday, the chamber and the State Department invited 26 ambassadors from around the world joined top tech companies like Google, Apple, Samsung and AT&T at the Driskill Hotel, in a tour aimed at bringing more international businesses to Austin.

Update at 7:00 p.m.:

The Senate has passed the Marketplace Fairness Act by a vote of 69 to 27, The Associated Press reports.

Here's our original post:

The Senate is expected to approve a measure on Monday that would end tax-free shopping for online purchases, a move that concerns many e-retailers but has the support of the states that stand to collect billions in previously lost revenues.

(Most recent update: 10 a.m. ET.)

The nation's jobless rate edged down to 7.5 percent in April from 7.6 percent in March and employers added 165,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning.

Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

Shortages of water could limit the growth of fracking in Texas, according to a report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that advises investors about corporations’ sustainability practices.

Monika Freyman, who wrote the report for Ceres, says that fracking accounts for more than 20 percent of the water used in some Texas counties.

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Michael Dell may be the last man standing as he fights to take his company private.  Today, rival bidder The Blackstone Group dropped out.

It was David Johnson, formerly Michael Dell’s key turnaround executive, who led the Blackstone offer.  Johnson left Dell in January.  Today his group withdrew its bid, saying in a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal that Dell’s outlook and finances are worse than they thought.

Bobby Blanchard, KUT News

Texas voters would decide whether or not casinos would be allowed in the state, if state lawmakers approve a referendum that would amend the state Constitution.

State Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) said his proposal would allow 21 casinos to be distributed throughout the state, and would create a gambling commission. Carona, the author of the bill, said it is time Texas allows for casinos and slot machines, so the state doesn't fall behind other states economically.

KUT News

Update: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz says he's not giving up his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz spoke at a sold out luncheon hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce Friday. Topics ranged from  healthcare reform and the economy to Cruz's cowboy boots and reputation as a "bomb thrower."

Cruz deflected the question about his "bomb throwing" reputation and instead touted his ability to follow through on campaign promises and get things done in Washington. 

Garreth Wilcock/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/gjmj/5793428199/

New home construction is up by 27 percent in the Austin area, according to MetroStudy. The real estate tracking firm says there were 1,952 starts in the first three months of the year. That’s 413 more than the same quarter last year.

MetroStudy’s Austin market director Madison Inselmann says the surge in new building is helping to lift pay for construction workers.

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RunTex is losing its prime store location on Riverside Drive and South First Street. The Austin-American Statesman reports the company is being evicted because they didn’t pay the $20,000/month rent. But there’s also the fact that the location is reportedly set to become a mixed-use development.

As far as criticism of his business decisions go, RunTex owner Paul Carrozza told KUT News he’s learned a “valuable lesson and an expensive lesson around expansion and what it takes to go from one store to five stores.”

Looking forward, Carrozza says RunTex will continue its commitment to fitness and creating a healthier Austin. He says that may mean that retail sales become less of a priority.

Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov, Texas Tribune

Women working full-time in Texas earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to a new analysis of Census figures by the National Women’s Law Center.

The Center's senior counsel Liz Watson says it compares with a nationwide average of 77 cents, but the overall number masks some racial disparities.

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