By Susan Lahey
Reporter with Silicon Hills news
One of Austin’s tactics for keeping the city’s economy growing is to build on space technology, said Gene Austin, President and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Bazaarvoice. Speaking at the organization’s annual meeting, Austin said that Opportunity Austin, the chamber’s five-county economic development initiative would focus on Space Technology and Exploration as an area for growth.
“There are about 30 space startups every year and Austin is already home to seven,” Austin said. Opportunity Austin will encourage midsized companies in the fast-growing space technology and exploration category to make Austin their central Texas home. This includes companies involved with satellites, launch software and robotics.
To facilitate talent in the area, UT will offer a master’s in Space Entrepreneurship starting in 2015.
Austin’s announcement was made at the 137th Annual Meeting and Luncheon at the Hilton Wednesday which had a sold out crowd of about 850 people. He said the chamber is concerned with what he fears to be complacency on the part of the city, believing that companies will continue to move to Austin without the city having to continue to earn its popularity. After the dot.com bubble burst around 2000, he said, Austin was the last major metropolitan area to recover. The city’s economic development forces worked hard to ensure that Austin would never again have so many eggs in one basket again. But recent policy amendments at the city might create paperwork and bureaucratic processes that will hinder companies from moving to Austin.
Prior to Austin’s speech, the Chamber gave out awards for its volunteers of the year, including 2014 Volunteer of the Year for Technology and Innovation to Bob Metcalfe for his contributions in linking industry and academics around entrepreneurism and innovation.
Former Mayor Lee Leffingwell was named Austinite of the Year and was honored with a film that interviewed several local dignitaries including Texas Senator Kirk Watson and featured Leffingwell’s famous video singing in the shower.