Austin

Austin Is the New Silicon Valley, But They Probably Don’t Want You There

John Kinzell realized he needed to move his California pharmaceuticals start-up to another state in 2010. He believed California had forgotten how to support businesses and now treats them as “a never-ending source of tax revenues to support an ever-increasing government that in turn showers them with workplace and environmental regulations.” Though workplace safety regulations might actually be a good thing for workers dealing with dangerous chemicals, Kinzell still wanted to head to the relatively lawless haven of Texas.

Specifically, Kinzell settled on Austin which is fast becoming a startup hub. In the last five years, Texas has added more than half a million jobs, many of which are attributed to businesses relocating to Texas from other states. Though Kinzell is excited about his new digs, many locals are far from enthused.

According to the Austin-based website The Pessimist, natives are upset because their favorite mom-and-pop holes in the wall are being replaced by trendy, $100-a-plate New York City-style restaurants. They’re upset because their bike lanes are being overrun with angry Los Angeles drivers. They’re upset because their city is trading its keep-Austin-weird vibe for commercialization and overdevelopment.

Now they’re even wearing their emotions on their chests. Austin design business Kong Screen Printing chose SXSW to debut T-shirts that read, “Welcome to Austin. Please don’t move here. I hear Dallas is great!” Unsurprisingly, they sold like breakfast tacos.

This influx of out-of-state businesses and their employees is most deeply felt in the Austin housing market. More and more high-rise condominium and apartment complexes are being built for new executives. And more and more Austinites not involved in the tech biocluster, like teachers and policemen, are being forced out of city limits by rising rents and house prices. The Austin Board of Realtors reports that home sales increased 26 percent in the last year, and now the median price for a single-family home is $208,500, which is 7 percent higher than it was last year.

Austinites can fight back as much as they want, but with Governor Perry’s Texas Wide Open for Business campaign, technology start-ups are encouraged by cash incentives to expand into Texas’s borders. It may take more than a t-shirt for old Austin to win back its weirdness from its new inhabitants.