Bay Area tech workers may be eyeing Austin (even more) as remote work gains wide acceptance post-pandemic
In 2010, shortly after the Great Recession ended, entrepreneur Paul O'Brien and his family—wife and three kids—packed up their home in the Silicon Valley town of Los Gatos and headed to the Silicon Hills hub of Austin. The O'Briens were eager for a better quality of life.
The mortgage crisis and other issues "made us realize we were not where we wanted to be," said O'Brien, founder and CEO of Austin-based MediaTech Ventures.
Ten years after arriving here, O'Brien believes many current residents of the San Francisco Bay Area—encompassing the San Francisco and San Jose metro areas—will pull up stakes and settle in Austin (and other cities in Texas) to flee sky-high housing prices and other quality-of-life drawbacks. Why now? The coronavirus pandemic has propelled the remote-work movement, freeing up folks who've been tethered to offices to work from, and live, practically anywhere.
On Twitter, Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan wrote in May that the remote-work wave has erased some of the key reasons for staying in the Bay Area.
"The office isn't used, the industry is going remote," he tweeted. "So SF is just pure repulsion. And people will fly away."
A May 3-5 survey by Redfin, a residential real estate brokerage company, found that 51% of people living in San Francisco would "fly away" if current work-from-home policies became permanent. The No. 1 driver of this would-be exodus? The desire to live somewhere less expensive. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in April that, based on anecdotal evidence, the coronavirus pandemic apparently "has prompted a minor but disorienting Bay Area exodus."
Before the pandemic, 35% of local residents indicated in a 2019 survey by the San Francisco Controller's Office that they were likely to move away from San Francisco in the next three years.
Perhaps buoying the potential San Francisco-to-Austin shift is the fact that a number of Northern California-based employers maintain sizeable outposts in Central Texas. The list includes AMD, Apple, Applied Materials, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Oracle, PayPal and Visa.
Data suggests a pandemic-inspired migration from the Bay Area to Austin might already be underway.
Figures from Apartments.com show an upward trend in searches by people in San Francisco for places to live in Austin. The data covers the period from Feb. 1 to June 5.
Another apartment website, Zumper, has recorded a 29% spike in Austin searches by people located in the San Francisco Bay area. The site compared the two-month period of February and March to the two-month period of April and May. Zumper noted that May is the kickoff of the summer moving season, which might account for part of the 29% increase.
Of course, Austin has seen this scene play out for a while, with a steady stream of folks transplanting themselves from the Bay Area to Austin in the years since the Great Recession. One high-profile example: Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor, author and podcaster Tim Ferriss relocated to Austin in 2017 to escape an environment that he branded as close-minded.
"While many poke fun at all the immigrants to Austin, and even disdain all those Californians," O'Brien said, "the fact is that many left in 2009 and 2010 precisely to be Texan and not Californian. Austin, from that point forward, became a prototype—an MVP—of how cities throughout the world could also thrive through the internet and how we could all look to the internet in our traditional industries."
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After two years of no in-person events, Austin festival South by Southwest has agreed to give 50% of ownership to P-MRC, a Los Angeles company that controls publishing operations for Rolling Stone and Billboard.
The media venture was founded in 2020 and is part-owned by Jay Penske, racer Roger Penske's son and head of Penske Racing and Penske Media.
The move comes after the COVID-19 pandemic left the festival with two years worth of hemorrhaging funds. SXSW organizers were left scrambling for solutions in March 2020 when the city of Austin canceled the festival at the onset of the pandemic. One-third of the festival's 175 year-round employees were laid off, and the festival ran a shortened virtual event in 2021.
SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson said in a statement that the company is grateful to get aid when they need it most and that they are now looking to the future.
"It has been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included," Swenson said. "When Jay Penske approached us with an interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us. Both of our companies share a passion for producing high-quality content that helps shape modern culture, so this feels like a natural alliance."
Both of Austin's big-name festivals are now in the hands of out-of-town buyers. In 2014, homegrown festival Austin City Limits was bought in part by LiveNation, who took 51% ownership in Austin live promoter C3 Presents.
The fest has captured the essence of Austin arts and culture for 34 years, and it doesn't plan on stopping now. With P-MRC by its side, SXSW said it plans on keeping its unique identity but expanding operations as it prepares for an in-person celebration next spring.
"Since 1987, SXSW has been the world's premier festival centered at the convergence of tech, media, film, and music," Penske said. "Today SXSW continues to be one of the most recognized brands for empowering creative talent and bringing together the brightest creators of our time. As part of this significant investment, we plan to build upon SXSW's incredible foundation while extending the platform further digitally and assisting Roland and his incredible team to bring their vision to even greater heights."
With their future restored, SXSW's newest slogan rings truer than ever: "See you next year at SXSW!"
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Update: Former Travis County deputy suspected of killing 3 in northwest Austin now in police custody
Stephen Broderick is now in police custody for a suspected domestic violence incident that killed three in northwest Austin on Sunday.
After initially being called an active shooting incident, joint local law enforcement and more than 75 FBI agents proceeded with an almost day-long manhunt with three helicopters and on-ground teams for former Travis County deputy Broderick. Police captured him after a 911 caller reported a suspicious man walking along U.S. 290, where he was taken into custody.
Police believe the victims, who have been identified as two Hispanic women and one Black man, knew their assailant. A child was involved but is now safely in police custody. Two of the victims have been identified as former and current Elgin ISD students: Alyssa Broderick and Willie Simmons III.
The school district released a statement offering its condolences to the families. Alyssa was enrolled until October 2020 and played on the basketball team. Simmons was a senior at Elgin High School where he was captain of the football team and had been recruited to play football at the University of North Texas.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez released the following statement on the incident: "I'm truly heartbroken that a former Travis County Sheriff's Office Deputy is the suspect in such a horrific incident. TCSO is standing by to provide any, and all assistance we can to the families of the victims in their time of need. I'm proud of the integrity and professionalism shown by the men and women of TCSO, APD and other law enforcement agencies, who worked tirelessly throughout the night to locate Stephen Broderick. I'm especially grateful to the vigilant citizen who called 911 after seeing Broderick, and to the Manor PD officers and TCSO deputies who took him into custody this morning."
APD @Chief_Chacon provides updated media briefing in relation to Great Hills Trail incident. - PIO8 https://t.co/47siNWhARI
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
During a press briefing at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, Interim Police Chief Joe Chacon said law enforcement was on the scene for several hours investigating the incident with 41-year-old Broderick.
"We're very sorry that obviously this has happened and we continue to try and locate this individual, we are transitioning from a search in this area to a fugitive search and those efforts will continue until this person is located," Chacon said. "I don't want anyone to think that we're packing up and going home. We're going to continue to look for this individual because he continues to pose a threat to this community."
#texasshooting #masshooting Arboretum shooting Austin. pic.twitter.com/SkIsgDoYHt
— Jamie Hammonds (@jamie_hammonds5) April 18, 2021
This story has been updated at 8 a.m. Monday to include the latest information.
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Formula 1 is returning to Florida for the first time since 1959, announcing that the brand-new Miami Grand Prix will join the calendar in 2022 and Austin will no longer be the only F1 race in the U.S.
Held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, this will be the first race in the Sunshine State in 62 years. With a new track setup, F1 will loop the stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Excited for @F1 @f1miami @HardRockStadium - a Global Entertainment Destination. This event will bring opportunities for so many and will be world-class. Thank you to @gregmaffei #chasecarey #stefanodomenicali @MayorRHarris @Ogilbert @CommishDiaz @MayorDaniella pic.twitter.com/n6dDDD1cPX
— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2021
The new 3.36 mile circuit has 19 corners, three straights and potential for three DRS zones, with expected top speeds of 198 mph.
Now with two races in the U.S., F1 President Stefano Domenicali said they will avoid having back-to-back events by keeping the Miami Grand Prix separate from the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
The date of the race has yet to be confirmed, though Domenicali said he expects the first race in a 10-year deal to take place in the second quarter of 2022. Austin's race will take place on Oct. 24 this year.
"The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the U.S. which will be further supported by this exciting second race," Domenicali said.
Miami will mark the 11th race location in the U.S. since the Championship began in 1950: Circuit of The Americas in Austin; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Sebring, Florida; Riverside, California; Watkins Glen, New York; Long Beach, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Detroit, Michigan and Phoenix, Arizona. COTA was first opened in 2012.
Domenicali said F1 will be working with the FIA and the Hard Rock Stadium to leave a lasting impact on the community: discounted tickets for residents, a program to support local businesses and a STEM education program through F1 in schools.
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