Opinion Piece

Chelsea Collier, courtesy photo.

Chelsea Collier, courtesy photo.

Special to Silicon Hills News

There has been plenty of attention and activity lately about the sharing economy (Uber, Lyft, HomeAway, AirBNB, VRBO), local regulatory bodies (City of Austin, Austin City Council) and what happens when these groups are at odds with each other. The issue at hand goes way beyond the recent buzz. And all types of businesses should be paying attention.

The short of it is this: when elected officials adopt rules that make it difficult for responsible companies to do business, it’s bad for our city, our state and our nation. And I’m not the only one who thinks so:

• Venture Capitalist Mike Maples cites “hostile” regs as a barrier to investment

• Local leaders like Joshua Baer voice concern that the years spent building the entrepreneurial ecosystem could be threatened because innovation is not being rewarded. (Entrepreneurs don’t do status-quo.)

• Startup founders like Paul Murphy (Founder, Clarify.io) who purposefully chose Austin wonder “Did I make a mistake?”

• Companies with thousands of employees may question locating headquarters and bringing jobs to a city that doesn’t embrace pro-business policies.

After leaving a meeting with concerned executives who gathered to talk about the seriousness of the latest local regulations coming out of City Hall, I tweeted the following:

And wow, was I impressed with the support. In fact, Laura Lorek, the ever-watchful founder of Silicon Hills News, asked me to pen this post because of that tweet and our community’s shared alarm. ‬‬‬

We are all just shaking our heads wondering, “How did we get here?” Whether from newcomers to Austin or longtime tech leaders, the thing I hear most in my meetings is “What in the world is happening? Is this really the way Austin does business?” It’s no wonder people are perplexed. Austin has been lauded as a center for innovation in a state that is known around the world as “wide open for business.” But clearly, policy decisions and bureaucratic processes can impact a City’s reputation in a hurry.

But the good news is that the tech community is rallying, calling for leaders to look forward when governing, to get beyond old constructs and to set the bar for how future-leaning cities manage rapid growth and change. It is our responsibility (and our honor) to widen the dialog with our elected officials and city staff. This is not the time to close our minds, say no or walk away. It’s time to foster a respectful dialog about the needs of our booming city and acknowledge what we can ALL do – together – to encourage investment, bolster our infrastructure and pass smart regulations that serve our citizens instead of driving companies out of town.

It’s kind of a joke when people say, “don’t move to Austin” because everyone knows that will just never be the case. We are an amazing city and we should be proud that people around the country and around the world think the same and want to be a part of it. Shutting the door on companies who want to invest in our city is NOT the answer.

#ATXoutoftouch means we have work to do to acknowledge reality and that there needs to be a better bridge between business and City Hall. I know that we can work together to #KeepAustinSmart and mature into the city that embraces innovation, welcomes responsible expansion and encourages investment in the city we love. I am firmly, loudly and completely committed to this cause and invite you all to join me.

Thank you.

Bio: As Principal of Intercambio, Chelsea guides the direction and intention of the company. Her primary focus is to bring the best people together to do good work. From 2012-2015, Chelsea was the Executive Director Texans for Economic Progress (TEP) and now engages as a Strategic Advisor where she continues to facilitate dialogue between the statewide technology community and elected officials, advocating for greater access to tech education, entrepreneurship and infrastructure. She is also Co-Founder of three startups: Wake Up, a professional and personal development workshop series, Impact Hub Austin, a local effort within a global network to provide co-working and incubation for social and civic enterprises, Mable, a social enterprise that produces modular furniture from sustainable materials manufactured in the USA.