Austin Texas Real Estate: On May 23, 1999, the Austin Bergstrom International Airport was completed and opened at the site of the old Bergstrom Air Force base. It replaced Robert Mueller International Airport. In 2000, Austin became the center of focus for the media, when it became the headquarters of presidential candidate and then Texas Governor George W. Bush. The headquarters of his opponent, Al Gore, were located in Nashville.
Also in 2000, Austenites barely rejected a light rail proposal that was proposed by Capital Metro. Capital Metro was started by referendum in January 1986 to provide transportation to the greater Austin metro area. Voters approved creation of Capital Metro, to be funded by sales tax. Capital Metro started operation in 1987, taking over existing City bus services. To boost rider, Capital Metro got rid of fares and operated fare-free as an experiment from Oct 89 to Dec 90. The plan was successful in attracting passengers and grew riders by 80%. However, it also attracted problem users who drove away quality people. About 81% of bus drivers then voted to discontinue to the fare-free program immediately in the 90s. By 1997, Capital was subjected to investigations by the Legislature and by the FBI that unraveled a poorly managed, poorly functioning organization. The investigations resulted in an turnover of Capital and its board in an effort to make the transit organization more efficient and transparent. The Texas Comptroller audited Capital and along with citing the investigations, also made note of “dubious contracting with bad purchasing practices,” and nearly $120,000 spent on “parties and presents for employees.” The review stated that the Comptroller had never witnesed an agency with a lack of internal accountability. Part of the restructuring of Capital Metro, they were ordered to hold a conference on passenger rail issue. Capital Metro developed a plan to spend $2 billion on light rail with 49 miles of track on streets. The plan was defeated but the vote showed that people voting within central Austin favored it. Capital prepared another plan by 2004. The new plan was to build a new line that would cost only $90 million. The plan was delayed multiple times and ran over budget but the Red Line finally began service by March 19, 2010.
Austin politics in the 90’s was dominated by the fight between greenies and supporters of urban growth. In the past, the city has attempted to regulate the controversy by advocating limited growth but urban sprawl and environmentalism are still the hot button discussion in city of politics.
Austin is well recognized as a center for liberal politics in a largely conservative state. Then a major party change that began in the 70s made central Austin to become a bastion for the Democratic Party while the rural areas generally vote Republican. The city is a mixture of urban liberalism and rural conservatism but as a whole, the city tilts to the left. By 2004 the city adopted a unsupported resolution against the terrorist Patriot Act. In the 2004 election, Senator Kerry won a majority of votes in Travis. Austin contains 6 state districts, three of those are Democratic and 3 are swing districts currently held by liberals. 2 of the 3 districts in Austin are run by Republicans.
In 2004, the Frost Bank Tower opened in the downtown business district of Austin, along Congress Avenue. The building is 515 feet high, and at the time of completion was the tallest building in the city. Furthermore, the Frost Bank Tower was the first high rise to be built after the attacked of September 11, 2001. Multiple other high-rise projects were underway downtown during this period, and the skyline of Austin has dramatically changed over the past decade. The new high-rise buildings have put a new emphasis on downtown living and the development of the downtown area. In 2006, the first sections of Austin’s first toll road project opened. The toll roads were held up as a solution to highway projects that lacked the funding to be completed. However opposition to the toll roads felt that the toll fees amounted to a second tax along with what Austinites already pay toward road projects.
As Austin continued to garner a reputation as a location for creativity, corporate businesses developed sites in town and pushed out many “mom and pop” businesses. For many native Austin citizens, the loss of these local establishments was a blow the culture of the city. As a response, the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” became popular and many Austinites have reacted by supporting local businesses rather than shopping at national chains. Today, Austin continues to rise in popularity and experience rapid growth. A younger generation of people has migrated to the city, drawn in by the relatively strong economy, Austin’s reputation as a bastion of liberal politics in a red state, as well as its reputation as a hub of alternative culture and its low cost of living compared to other regions of the United States. Austin has experienced growing pains as a result of the immigration. Some of these pains include urban sprawl, and the necessity of balancing the development of new infrastructure with the protection of the natural environment. Recently, there was been a call for smart growth, most notably in the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. This has encouraged the development of new condominiums in the area and the continued alteration of Austin’s skyline. The result has been drastically higher housing prices throughout the metropolitan area, especially in neighborhoods that are close to downtown.
Austin is still considered a major hub for the high tech arena. Graduates leave the University of Texas at Austin each year with degrees in computer and engineering science. These graduates prove a steady stream of employees that drive Austin’s defense and technology industries. Metropolitan Austin has a less housing cost than Silicon Valley but more housing costs than rural areas of Texas. Austin’s big employers include the AISD, Austin City, Dell Computers, Freescale, the U.S. Federal Government, IBM, St. David, the Seton Hospitals, the State, Texas State, and the UT. Many other tech companies have sites in Austin, including 3M, Apple, H-P, Google, Applied Materials, Cirrus Logic, AMD, Cisco Systems, and PayPal. Game companies like Bioware, Blizzard and many smaller development houses call Austin home as well. Also National Instruments, Intel, Silicon Labs, Sun and Hostgator all run operations in Austin. 2010 popular Facebook accepted a proposal to establish an office in downtown Austin that could provide as many as 300 jobs to Austin. The many technology companies in the city have led to the region being nicknamed the new Silicon Valley and has encouraged development. Austin is currently rising as a center for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. About 90 companies related to these industries are in Austin. The Milken Institute ranked Austin as the #9 life science and biotech center in the United States.
Austin is home to some large advertising agencies such as LatinWorks and GSD&M Idea City as well as other respected advertising agencies. Whole Foods, a grocery store that has organic and natural products was founded and is headquartered in Austin. In addition, many global companies within Austin is home to a network of many independent local firms. The success of these companies is due in part to the attitudes of the Austinites in regard to keeping the local culture of their city.