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In reviewing 2012, Ott touts Austin’s economic success

Thursday, January 3, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Austin City Manager Marc Ott can point to a host of items that illustrate Austin’s success in 2012. There’s the citizen satisfaction survey, a document, he notes, that continues to illustrate Austinites’ increasing faith in their city. There’s the economy, and the fact that Ott, his team, city staff, and Council Members have managed to pilot the city relatively unscathed through what Ott still calls the “great recession.”


And then there are the two giant holes downtown. Sometime soon, those holes will turn into hotels; the hotels will fill with guests – or at least that’s the hope – fresh to town, perhaps for a conference. And the city’s coffers will fill with additional tax dollars.


Indeed, though Ott references a wide variety of city issues– including the coming sea change brought on by the November 2012 elections, the end of County Attorney David Escamilla’s investigation into potential open meetings violations, and the completion of the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan — in his wrap up of 2012, many of the positives hold a running theme: Growth and the economic boon that it brings.


Ott first references the host of major economic incentives deals completed by city officials in 2012. These efforts include the establishment of large facilities for Apple, Visa, and U.S. Farathane. All told, the firms will create hundreds of jobs for the region. “(The City has had) incredible successes in terms of economic development,” Ott says.


As for the construction, Ott notes that in addition to massive amounts of downtown hotel space, the city is also seeing more multi-family projects go up. The hotels, he points out, will allow the city “to compete for greater convention opportunities.” The multi-family construction, he says, may hold even more promise as evidence of increasing home ownership in the region.


And, for Ott, it is the region. During the interview, he’s careful to point out that, just as growth in other portions of central Texas benefit Austin, so Austin growth benefits the region. “We’re not isolated,” he says.


Ott moves on to discuss transportation construction. He turns first to roads, specifically the long-delayed flyovers on U.S. 290 that were finally completed in 2012. Ott says that this project, as well as work along I-35, SH 71, and MoPAC are the result of a very healthy working relationship that he says the city has cultivated with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) under his watch.


He calls the city’s relationship with TxDOT “very productive” and “better than it has been before.”


Progress on Urban Rail has not been so inspiring. Ott, however, says that the city hasn’t forgotten about the repeatedly pushed-off construction of a system. “No one should think that because (Urban Rail) hasn’t gone before the voters yet that there isn’t enthusiasm or momentum,” he says.


“I don’t think that there is any disagreement that we should address that challenge in a comprehensive, scalable way.”


Ott puts Urban Rail in the category of affordability.


It’s all contributed to what Ott sees as a rosy picture for Austin’s economy. He says Austin’s success is the result of a collaboration between city management, staff, the City Council, and Austinites — and that thanks to it, things are looking up.


After four or five years, Ott says, “We’ve come out on the other side of” the financial issues brought on by the 2008 economic collapse “in pretty good shape.” Few could disagree with his assessment.

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