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Lester Holt's 'Across America' shows the best and worst of life in Austin

Broadcasting live from Austin's ubiquitous Long Center, anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News" Lester Holt made his way to host the show live from "one of America's biggest boomtowns" on Monday night.


Austin was featured in the Nightly News' "Across America" series, which highlights the effects that the pandemic has left in different American cities. Holt touched on Austin's bustling tech scene, ongoing migration, polarizing legislation in the Lone Star State and spoke with a beloved local businesses while he was here.

Here's a recap of Austin's edition of "Across America."

“Surge of transplants” and big tech companies incoming

Holt began his broadcast from the lawn of the Long Center with a striking skyline background launching into Texas' controversial abortion law, which is currently being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, before the "Across America" segment.

The segment began with the oh-so-familiar sights of live music, colorful murals, bustling South Congress foot traffic and of course, construction as far as the eye can see.

"Austin is young, it's hip" and "much cheaper than California," according to new residents, who say the city has given them a new lease on life.

Basking in the status of a "boomtown," Austin was the most popular place to move to during the pandemic. Though natives may have their own opinions about out-of-staters settling in Austin, new transplants said they are happier than ever with the move.

One California-transplant family told Holt they felt like Austin gave them a way out of the West Coast "rat race" and has allowed them to "buy back" time together as a family. Plus, new residents are finding solidarity all around them with the numerous families that made the move in the last year.

Of course, it isn't all families moving to Austin—major corporations like Tesla are moving their headquarters here, Apple plans on building a new campus and a new Samsung plant could be popping up nearby.

Big-city growing pains

Austin's billowing growth can be attributed to its pleasant climate, low taxes and business-forward attitude, KXAN's Tahera Rahman told Holt. But it isn't all good news and as Police Chief Joseph Chacon put it, the boomtown status comes with its fair share of "big-city problems." Holt drew attention toward Austin's 80% increase in murders, a nationwide phenomenon.

Holt said that some of the biggest issues in Austin come down to scarcity of housing—the city has been dealing with a homelessness crisis for years, which is only being exacerbated by skyrocketing costs of living. He said Austin's abundance of jobs has made the already hot housing market even hotter.

Holt spoke with a couple who felt "priced out" after ending their search for a house over the last eight months. The couple said they were finding people put in offers that were 15% higher than the asking price, yet they still have no plans of leaving. That's the pull Austin has, the couple said.

Though the rapid growth is alarming, Rahman told Holt she believes city officials were planning on making the most of it.

"I think city and county leaders are seeing it as more of an opportunity to manage that growth in an equitable way," Rahman said.

"Best tacos... maybe in the country."

Reyna and Maritza Vazquez brought a taste of their hometown, Veracruz, Mexico, to Austin. (NBC/Youtube)

It wouldn't be an Austin segment without visiting one of the city's most treasured artifacts: the taco truck. Holt spoke with Veracruz All Natural founders Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, who have grown from a single truck to six Austin locations and recently expanded to Los Angeles with a new truck called "Hot Tacos."

Holt was taught by the sisters, who grew up in the kitchen with their mother in Mexico, how to make their signature Migas breakfast taco and heard from locals who said the Vazquez sisters make the "best tacos in the city, maybe in the country."

"Funny, I never leave Texas hungry," Holt said. "So long from Austin."

Holt will visit St. Louis, Missouri, for his next take on "Across America."

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