The Austin Effect

May 28, 2015

By Noelle Salerno, Consultant, Avalanche Consulting

I moved to Austin, Texas in 2011 and was thrilled to call the ATX home, despite not having a job or place to live. Minor details, right? My family thought I was crazy to leave a job offer behind and move to a new city, but I felt the magnetic pull of Austin. As the tongue-in-cheek saying goes, “Welcome to Austin! Please don’t move here.” But I didn’t listen, and neither does anyone else. According to net migration data from the U.S. Census, 170 people move to Austin each day.

What makes Austin draw in talent like moths to a flame? It is a vibrant, cool city, no doubt about it – but there is more to it than that. Austin and other successful communities that are magnets for talent have similar characteristics:

It is inclusive. As a young professional, it was difficult or me to overcome the “good old boys club” in many communities I had lived in. This was not the case in Austin. There is a strong sense of community. It welcomes diversity. I was able to get involved with organizations such as Young Women’s Alliance and Leadership Austin. I found a group of like-minded people that were passionate about helping others and making their community the best it can be. I was also able to better myself, developing leadership skills through various volunteer and board service opportunities. Despite Austinites’ plea to newcomers to “please not move here,” I was welcomed with open arms.

Lesson: Ensure there are ways newcomers can get involved in the community and meet others, such as through nonprofit organizations. Bring young professionals to the table, allowing them to actively serve in leadership roles.

It has a distinct personality. People around the world are familiar with Austin’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” It is a city that is quirky and unique, celebrating individuality. My awareness of Austin and its unique vibe is why it landed on my short list. I knew it was a place I could call home.

Lesson: Every city has a unique personality. Identify the brand essence that conveys the spirit of your community. Ensure your marketing communications embody this brand through your marketing tools – everything from your writing style and color palette to the imagery and stories you tell. Use real people from your community to tell your unique story – this kind of authenticity will resonate with target audiences.

There is a sense of opportunity. The risky decision to move across the country was mitigated by the fact that there were plentiful job opportunities in Austin. Austin is also affordable compared to other big cities I had lived in. I was sold on the fact that I could live in the city without spending my entire paycheck on rent, allowing me to enjoy all the breakfast tacos I wanted! Yes, breakfast tacos may have been another reason I moved to Austin…

Lesson: Is this a place where a new grad can find a job? Where an entrepreneur can thrive? Where an established company can continue to grow? Continue to develop robust economic development programs and communicate those resources to your community. Share job opportunities through an online talent portal. Actively connect newcomers to your personal networks. Connect entrepreneurs with venture capital and other resources. Engage your established companies to ensure their needs are being met.