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

Flickr user Noah Jacquemin,

Yesterday’s bipartisan Senate proposal to overhaul the immigration system has drawn praise and criticism from both sides of the aisle. In Texas, one question remains: is immigration good or bad for business? 

The proposal from eight U.S. Senators calls for increased border security and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Texas ranchers are applauding Japan’s move to ease restrictions on U.S. beef. Japan will allow imports of meat from American cattle aged 30 months or younger, instead of the current 20 months, according to a statement from the U.S. government. 

“There were a bunch of these cattle that we could not prove they were under 20 months," said Pete Bonds, a rancher in Fort Worth and a vice president with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

An Austin-based air duct cleaning company is looking a little dirty.

A company known alternately as Austin City Air Ducts, ANS Air Ducts, AC Air Ducts and AOS Air Ducts, advertises cleaning services in ValPak coupons and on group buying websites like Eversave. But the Better Business Bureau says it received several complaints about the company from consumers in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas/Forth Worth.

courtesy Dell Inc.

Update: This article has been edited to correct when Larry Stern saw fliers for Dell on the UT campus. It was not 1981, but some point later in the 1980s.

Dell says that recent talk of a buyout is only speculation, but there’s still a whole lot of speculating going on, including about how a possible deal might work, and what it might mean for Austin.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says union membership continues to decline in the United States.

In 2012, American Union membership rate dropped to 11.3 percent from 11.8 percent in 2011. As The Washington Post reports, that's the lowest level since the 1930s.

Austin’s unemployment rose from 4.9 to 5 percent in December, while Texas’s overall unemployment dropped to 6.1 percent from 7.4 percent last year.

Mark Lavergne, spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, said the change in unemployment in Austin is a slight change. What is more significant, he said, was the unemployment change in Austin and Texas in the past year. Austin’s unemployment has dropped to 5 percent from 6.1 a year ago, while Texas’s unemployment rate has fallen from 7.4 percent to 6.1 in the past year.

Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, City of Austin

Austin got a look at the return on its investments Thursday. 

The city currently has 11 active economic incentive agreements in place – deals with companies like Visa and Apple stipulating that as long as a company meets negotiated hiring and spending goals, they’ll receive annual benefits from the city, often in the form of tax breaks.  Total incentives, if honored over the course of their entirety, approach $73 million.

KUT News

Years of drought have wreaked havoc on the cattle industry in Texas. Today a major beef processor in the Panhandle said it is temporarily closing a plant because of dwindling supply.

Cargill says it will idle its facility in Plainview, which employs about 2,000 people.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin has come out on top, almost, in an economic ranking of U.S. cities.

The Milken Institute said Austin is the second best performing city, based on measures like job growth and wage increases. The study’s author, Ross De Vol, say technology is the region’s big wealth driver.

De Vol says what Austin needs to catch No. 1 city San Jose is more money for growing businesses.

There were 335,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, down 37,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports.

That's the lowest total for any one week since January 2008.

UPDATE at 12:35 p.m., ET, Jan. 17: Many of you wrote in to tell us you were taken aback by Whole Foods top executive John Mackey characterizing the health law as fascism in an NPR interview, and apparently, he's feeling a little sheepish.

About three minutes into his otherwise amiable chat with CBS This Morning hosts on on Thursday, Mackey walked back his comments in response to a direct question from Norah O'Donnell:

Users of Facebook will soon have a new search tool at their disposal, the leaders of the company announced Tuesday during a live event. The new Graph Search feature will let those on Facebook sift through photos, people, places, and business pages.

The new search ability will join Facebook users' newsfeed and timeline as "pillars" of their experience, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who predicted Graph Search would become an "amazing resource."

Rebates for solar panels prompted more people than ever to install them in their homes last year. Austin Energy says it issued 463 rebates in fiscal 2012. That was the highest number ever, breaking the previous record by 40 percent.

The increase came even though Austin Energy decreased the amount of the rebate its lowest ever in June: $2 per watt. 

Texas has been courting businesses for some time now, attracting job creators and corporations to the state in droves.

State and city officials have lured corporations in with sales tax incentives. That's prompted accusations of corporate welfare and ill-gotten subsidies, but the state’s dance card is full when it comes to reeling in businesses. In fact, the state’s attracted more businesses than most.

Texas State Capitol
Erik Reyna, KUT News

Public-private partnerships have been back in the news lately,  after the Sunset Advisory Commission put a halt to some development projects being discussed for the Capitol area. Lawmakers want to tighten up some of the laws governing the Texas Facilities Commission and public-private partnerships, or P3's.

Dell Inc.

Shares in computer-maker Dell Inc. surged by 13 percent Monday on rumors the Round Rock based company could go private. Bloomberg News cites anonymous sources as saying Dell is in talks with at least two private equity firms.

John Doggett is a lecturer at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. He says the talks come as Dell is shifting its business strategy away from PCs.

Austin-based software company Bazaarvoice Inc. says it is confident it will win a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday.

The Justice Department sued the company over its acquisition of San Francisco-based PowerReviews Inc. last year. The DOJ claims Bazaarvoice “eliminated its most significant rival and effectively insulated itself from meaningful competition.”

In a statement, Bazaarvoice responded that there is “still robust competition for ratings and reviews all over the social commerce landscape.”

KUT News

Contrary to what you may have heard, people in the country illegally can file a return. They use a special IRS-issued number called an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). But new IRS rules effective this month mean some changes for people using ITINs.

In 2010, the latest available data from the IRS, nearly 18 million people paid their taxes with ITINs.

Until yesterday, Dave Johnson was a part of computer company Dell’s strategy to turn the once-dominant company around. But Dell declared yesterday that Johnson is ditching the tech industry altogether to take a senior position with an investment company.

In 2009 Johnson jumped ship from IBM to Dell as senior vice president for corporate strategy. The company’s intention was to catapult from personal computers into the tech service market, alongside giants like IBM and Hewlett-Packard. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Construction could begin on 8,800 to 9,600 new single-family homes in 2013, according to an annual forecast by Eldon Rude, the Austin analyst with the real estate tracking firm MetroStudy. Rude delivered his forecast this morning before a group of realtors and home builders. The growth would represent an increase of 10 to 20 percent.