Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Big City Thinking

A few stories in today's Austin American-Statesman convey to me a larger story, if you will allow me to connect the dots.

The lead story that I have been waiting to read for more than a week reveals the aggressive plans by the Waller Creek Conservancy to cultivate $60 million of public-private support for transforming a 15-block stretch of prime real estate that currently is underutilized, except as a haven for the transient population. The founders of the conservancy are presenting Austin an opportunity to take a giant step forward toward inclusion in a handful of elite U.S. cities. The creation of an urban greenbelt along the eastern portion of downtown Austin mimics what few cities have tackled. Taking on the challenge that cities like New York, Chicago and Houston have accomplished well, puts our capital city in a cluster of good company. Houston's inclusion may be debatable by some. A good dream or vision needs champions, and Melanie Barnes, Tom Meredith and Melba Whatley create a strong founding team of advocates for what will further distinguish Austin's attractiveness from other places to visit. Unfortunately, the conservancy's new logo falls flat on design and appears disconnected to the group's aggressive positioning.

Another smaller story inside today's morning newsprint was a brief about local Austin neighbor (Spicewood, TX) Scott Jeffress, and his idea of pitching a television show about eight young and fearless professionals who have zeroed in on Austin, "the most exciting city in Texas," according to Jeffress. His success as one of the executive producers of Jersey Shore gives him credibility and insight into what captures today's viewing audience. If Jeffress continues his success, the spillover is another rainmaker for Austin's visibility and tourism. Reality shows drive awareness and fuels attraction for places and trends. Dallas experienced this benefit while primetime TV viewers were captivated by oil money, soap-opera scripts.

The final story of today puts a silver lining on the future of our U.S. economy. Pent up purchasing demand is beginning to rip the seams of fear that have suppressed people from spending as much as they would like. A recent AP survey of leading economists express optimism that our economy will grow faster every quarter this year. Even the higher cost of filling a Texan's F-150 pick up is not preventing the spending necessary to encourage the economy. This is the same encouragement that helps fuel optimism for the Waller Creek Conservancy, and adds energy to the Austin lifestyle that Jeffress most likely wants to capture and convey to the world.

Connect the dots for yourself. Austin is on the move, and the world is going to be watching.

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