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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 a long, long year without live music, Austin has waited patiently for a return that has finally come. Festivals are planning returns and even venues that adhered strictly to safety protocols during the pandemic are feeling safe enough to gather again in person.
Starting in just a few short days, you can finally enjoy what makes Austin, well, Austin again. Here are a few of the live shows to look forward to.
Stubb's Waller Creek, 801 Red River Street
For the first time since the pandemic shut the iconic venue down forcing canceled and rescheduled shows, Stubb's BBQ is reopening its amphitheater to the public for concerts starting with a series of five sold-out Black Pumas shows, each with different openers, from May 26-30. It may be too late to catch Black Pumas this time around but Stubb's already has a host of other shows scheduled up through December. You can catch Surfaces, a College Station-based jazz-pop-hip-hop and vocals heavy duo known best for their song "Sunday Best," on Stubb's Stage on June 25 while tickets go on sale this Friday.
Next at Stubb's is electronic duo Louis the Child on July 28 and 29 on their "Euphoria Tour," followed by Umphrey's McGee on Sept. 9.
Mohawk Austin, 912 Red River Street
Likewise, Mohawk Austin has remained closed for more than a year since the onset of COVID-19, even tweeting "Thanks bro but we ain't gonna do it till it's safe," in response to Gov. Greg Abbott lifting all safety restrictions back in March. Starting May 27, Mohawk is officially back with Heartless Bastards and opener The Tender Things.
From there, Mohawk has an exciting lineup—Jukebox the Ghost will play on Sept. 10, Bully and opener Lightning Bug on Sept. 17, Big Freedia and Too Many Zooz on Oct. 4 and Beach Bunny on Dec. 14, with several talented artists in-between. Keep checking back though, Mohawk will continue to add shows and is currently planning on operating at 50%.
Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River Street
Though it is making a later comeback than Stubb's or Mohawk, the Frank Erwin Center will make a huge return on Aug. 14 featuring Tame Impala. If you missed their highly popular set at Austin City Limits Festival in 2019 or you want to relive it, this is the chance to do so. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to see the stage, though you will still be watching with around 16,000 other spectators. Michael Bublé will have you swooning when he comes to perform on Sept. 20 and Chris Stapleton is taking his "All American Road Show" live on Nov. 4.
Nutty Brown Amphitheatre, 12225 US-290
Holding some socially distanced concerts earlier this year, the Nutty Brown Amphitheatre isn't stopping there with rap artist Ginger Billy playing two sets on May 7. Nutty Brown has a star-studded lineup ahead: Austin-based Bob Schneider on May 8 and other Austin favorite Shinyribs will grace the stage May 29. A little further down the line, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts will take over on Aug. 21 followed by Styx on Oct. 23.
Texas Performing Arts Center, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive
If you prefer a little bit more visual appeal to go with your music, the Texas Performing Arts Center is reopening in-person after consistent online events. First up is Cody Ko and Noel Miller, a multi-hyphenated YouTuber-podcaster-comedian duo, who will perform their "Tiny Meat Gang – Global Domination," on July 31. Of course you can't miss The Beach Boys, coming to the theater on Oct. 24, or a two-week long production of Hamilton from Dec. 7-19. For all the young ones that have missed going out in-person, "Disney Princess—The Concert" is coming to the Texas Performing Arts Center on Feb. 6, 2022, performing timeless gems like "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast and featuring all their other favorite princesses. Tickets go on sale this Friday.
Remember to jump on those tickets–Austinites have been missing their live music!
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For Marco Silvestrini, gelato takes him back to his childhood when he and neighborhood kids in a small Italian town would end their day at the local gelato shop. It was part of what made some of the best memories for him.
He's since been offering that same experience for the past seven years with his artisanal gelato shop, Dolce Neve, in Austin, alongside his sister and her husband.
Leo Ferrarese, Marco and Franscesa Silvestrini run Dolce Neve. (Dolce Neve)
While gelato always played a big role in Silvestrini's life, it wasn't in his plans to take on a business with his favorite treat. After a few years in New York working as a management consultant, he felt he was missing out on something. "I decided to take a step back and started thinking, what could... I do to make society better and happier, even just for a moment," Silvestrini said.
He thought back to his childhood and the role gelato played in it and wanted to offer the same experience to Americans.
Once he had the product idea down, it came down to location. Growing up among farmers in a small community in Central Italy, Silvestrini knew he wanted a slower pace of living than New York, so he asked around. The answer he got: "Austin." The only thing he knew about what would become his future home was it had a Formula 1 track.
But after visiting once, he felt a great sense of community he didn't feel in The Empire State. "I felt it was not just a good place for a concept like mine, but also a good place to live because at the end of the day, you cannot just think about your business," he said.
"Dolce Neve" translates to "sweet snow." The shops offers 12-18 flavors at a time. (Dolce Neve)
Similarly, his sister Francesca Silvestrini was experiencing the same feelings while studying for her Ph.D. in Ohio before teaming up with Silvestrini. She went back to Italy to be properly trained in making gelato while Silvestrini focused on the business plan. They brought Leo Ferrarese, her husband, onboard and opened their first shop on South First Street in January 2014. The rest is history.
On the menu, you'll find various traditional and innovative flavors that rotate out. Some of the staples include chocolate, 100% vanilla from Madagascar and salted caramel. Other rotating or seasonal flavors include whiskey and pecan, organic cantaloupe sorbet, goat cheese and pecan, almond custard and tiramisu. They've created over 300 flavors together in the span of the business.
So what's next for the shop? Lately, Silvestrini has been thinking a lot about that. With two locations in Austin, one in Houston—he's just not sure if expanding more is the right move. Maintaining a quality product and good service is of utmost importance that he's not willing to sacrifice.
"In order to be happy, it's not about making money, it's about being an integral part of the community," Silvestrini said. "There have been so many cases in which I think what I did today really made a difference in somebody's life."