Economic Opportunity & Affordability
Economic Opportunity and Affordability Outcome: Having economic opportunities and resources that enable us to thrive in our community
Economic Opportunity and Affordability strategies focus on reducing economic disparities by understanding and addressing root causes, leveraging public-private partnerships, and supporting children and adults toward long-term success. These strategies also foster economic resiliency by strengthening the small business sector, aligning worker skills and employer needs and developing an inclusive workforce. Several strategies address the need for better data and systems to ensure the City’s efforts are cost effective and impactful to residents.
Within the Economic Opportunity and Affordability Outcome, the City Council selected “Housing,” and “Skills and capability of our community workforce (including education)” as two of their indicator category priorities.
Skills and Capability
This year presented challenges for Austin’s affordability, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued straining national, regional, and local economies, and Winter Storm Uri added another layer of new challenges. However, several departments found innovative solutions to reduce economic disparities, increase economic resiliency and provide critical resources to enable communities to thrive.
- In addition to housing the Austin-Travis County region’s COVID-19 Alternative Care Site as well as standing up a shelter and serving as an emergency distribution hub during Winter Storm Uri, the AustinConvention Center department (ACCD) diverted nearly 40% of its total waste from landfills by recycling over 200,000 pounds in waste materials. Because of this effort and other department initiatives, the ACCD and the Palmer Events Center (PEC) earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification, demonstrating their commitment to health, safety, energy and environmental design.
- The DevelopmentServices Department (DSD) further modernized their services by opening the Permitting and Development Center, completing a major step toward a one-stop development shop while maintaining focus on health and safety. In addition, the department supported recovery from Winter Storm Uri by working with customers, collaborating with other City departments, streamlining the permit process, eliminating permit fees, and setting up a dedicated customer service line for repairs related to the storm.
- The EconomicDevelopment Department (EDD) launched a one-stop online application portal in English and Spanish to make grants and services more accessible. EDD also provided thousands of hours in business coaching, training, and other services to better prepare Austinites and local employers for the existing and future job market.
- The Housingand Planning Department (HPD) continued efforts to increase the number of newly constructed affordable housing units, reduce development restrictions and support Austin households experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19. The department also provided emergency assistance to help income eligible households make critical repairs to their homes after Winter Storm Uri.
- The Small and Minority Business Resources Department (SMBR) continued to evolve and host online programs and events to provide local small businesses with training and information on procurement opportunities.
The following highlights are additional efforts made by the departments within the Economic Opportunity and Affordability strategic outcome over this past year.
Browse each department's accomplishments:
- As local public health conditions improved, hosted 28 events at Austin Convention Center (ACC) and 45 events at Palmer Events Center (PEC) and rebounded with $3 million in total revenue for both facilities from April 2021 to October 2021. Successfully negotiated COVID-19 impacted groups by rescheduling and retaining $1.59 million in rentals. ACC booked 73 groups totaling $2.55 million in revenue with 46 being new groups. ACC negotiated an additional 102 groups for future years. PEC hosted 45 events and booked 109 total events for 2021 and 2022. PEC booked 25 new events, with 13 held during the pandemic. PEC rebooked 13 total events impacted by COVID-19 for 2021 and 2022.
- Backed the Austin community by standing PEC up as a shelter for Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 and assisted with the setup and teardown of the Alternate Care Site at ACC. This included major electrical setup, tents, and hospital beds. Staff continued to prepare 1,000 to 2,000 bags of food weekly for the Eating Apart Together (EAT) Initiative between January and May of 2021.
- Earned the U.S. Green Building Councils – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification demonstrating both ACC and PEC’s commitment to health, safety, energy and environmental design. ACCD diverted 39.6% of its total waste from landfills by recycling 233,872 lbs. in waste materials. Individually, ACC diverted 44% of total waste materials from landfills by recycling 93,473 lbs. of waste, and PEC diverted 31.4 % of its waste from landfills by recycling 40,399 lbs. of waste materials. The 5th Street Parking Garage Administrative Offices earned the U.S. Green Building Councils - LEED® Silver certification.
- Started the construction of a new 70,000 square foot off-site building to serve as a marshalling yard and warehouse. Built to alleviate downtown event traffic and address the need for off-site storage, the facility is being constructed to meet LEED® Silver certification and includes the commissioning of a visual arts project that will be visible from Airport Commerce Drive as part of the City of Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program.
- Coordinated ACCD’s Community Engagement and Partner Outreach program’s first All-Online approach for the City of Austin Combined Charities Campaign; hosted Virtual AustinCorps Program; facilitated Virtual Tourism Commission Board Meetings and represented ACCD on the LEAPS Board. By implementing a proactive informative and transparent campaign, targeting local and trade media outlets, from September 2020 – September 2021 the Austin Convention Center Department garnered $991,258 in positive media value for the department and both ACC and PEC facilities.
- 2021 Stella Award Winner - Bronze Medal as the Best Convention Center in the Southwest Region. Judging that combines public, planner voting, and third-party, objective planner judging.
- 2021 Smart Meetings Platinum Choice Award Winner for Best Convention Center. Voted by members of the hospitality industry.
- 2021 Readers’ Choice Award, presented by ConventionSouth Magazine. Texas nominee by meeting planners and awarded to meeting sites that display exemplary creativity and professionalism.
- Palmer Events Center and Austin Convention Center awarded LEED Gold Certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
- Austin Convention Center and Palmer Events Center achieved Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. Under the guidance of GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, the Austin Convention Center Department has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention for the facility. ACCD has successfully completed a multi-year renewal of the GBAC STAR™ accreditation.
- Opened and introduced in-person services at the Permitting and Development Center, completing a major step toward a one-stop development shop while maintaining focus on health and safety.
- Improved development processes and expanded online resources through new tools, team structures, and procedures to reduce the time required for plan reviews and other development processes as demand for services grows.
- Simplified and expanded inspection options for customers, with programs that allow for more flexibility and efficiency for customers.
- Facilitated the return of special events through the Austin Center for Events by developing a COVID-19 Health & Safety review process with partner departments, which enabled special events permitting to occur with consideration for the impacts of the pandemic.
- Supported recovery from Winter Storm Uri by working with customers, collaborating with other City departments, streamlining the permit process, eliminating permit fees, and setting up a dedicated customer service line for repairs related to the February 2021 storm.
- Austin Business Journal’s 2021 Commercial Real Estate Award for Civic Development recipient for the Planning and Development Center
- Supported 25,254 jobs through businesses, non-profits, and creative organizations receiving Economic Development Department (EDD) services, including 6,195 creative sector jobs.
- Installed seven permanent artworks, including "St. John Community Pillar" (Damon Moseley), "Cloud Pavilion" (Beili Liu), and a restoration of the historic mural "Chicano Park Mural" (Ramon Maldonado and Arte Texas).
- Launched a one-stop online application portal in English and Spanish to bring grants and services online and available to residents via computers, tablets and mobile devices.
- Redesigned and launched the Healthy Corner Stores Program to address healthy food access challenges by incentivizing stores to carry healthy, fresh produce and prepare healthy meals.
- Generated $26,644,176 in tax revenue from strategic investments including redevelopment projects and business expansion incentives.
- Provided 7,634 hours of business coaching and training through 157 business classes and events, with a 97% satisfaction rate from customers using small business services.
- Distributed $10 million in grants to local legacy businesses and live music venues through the Save Austin Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) Fund.
- Secured City Council approval of the $263.5 million American Rescue Plan Act spending framework.
- Distributed $2 million in grants to local arts and culture non-profits organizations.
- Published the Economic Recovery and Resiliency Framework, which was informed by more than 125 stakeholder engagements.
- Secured City Council approval for an agreement with Del Valle Independent School District to expand Dual Language Pre-K access for four-year-old children.
- International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Gold Award recipient for EDD's partnership with Austin Resource Recovery to provide business retention and expansion services to circular economy businesses in Austin.
- Austin ranked as one of the Top 20 Global Startup Ecosystems according to annual ranking of 280 innovation ecosystems around the world; ranking include business powerhouses such as Tokyo, London, Paris and New York City.
- Austin ranked as the 2nd best place in the nation to start a business, according to LendingTree.
- Waived development restrictions and opened the Affordability Unlocked Development Bonus Program’s first developments; the 56-unit Abali affordable housing complex, and the 17-unit A at Lamppost! home ownership development.
- Responded quickly to damage from Winter Storm Uri and issued $800,000 in Emergency Home Repair funding to mend plumbing, patch roofs and restore electrical systems, assisting 123 income eligible households.
- Contracted with El Buen Samaritano to provide $900,000 in emergency funds, assisting 900 income eligible tenant households.
- Helped 16,988 Austin households experiencing financial loss due to COVID-19 meet their rent obligations and avoid potential eviction through the RENT Assistance Program, issuing nearly $67.2 million in financial support since April 2020.
- Launched the Palm District Planning Initiative beginning in spring 2021 to guide future land use, transportation, housing, and historic preservation in one of downtown’s most iconic and fastest-growing districts.
- Partnered with Caritas of Austin and ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) and invested $7.5 million in the Espero at Rutland project to provide permanent supportive housing and social services for 171 Austinites experiencing homelessness.
- Supported complete count efforts to document Austin’s unprecedented growth. Working together, community volunteers and the joint Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee were critical to Austin being ranked fourth among U.S. cities with the greatest population increase this decade.
- Hosted the 2021 Texas Airports National Car Rental Supplier Diversity Forum. Provided information to local ACDBE and small businesses interested in procurement opportunities with Car Rental Companies at medium and large Texas HUB airports. This virtual event was an extension of the National Car Rental Supplier Diversity Forum sponsored by the Airport Business Group and AMAC. The event had 94 online attendees.
- Informed the business community of upcoming airport project opportunities through the Airport Expansion & Development Program. This virtual event was sponsored by the Small and Minority Business division and the Aviation Department, and had 213 online attendees and 140 YouTube viewers after the event.
- Provided interactive virtual training on various platforms for stakeholders and interested vendors. Training was made available to those City-certified small businesses and stakeholders who are not familiar with the new technology that is being used for communication during the pandemic.
- Launched online government education portal for small businesses, Govology. The portal provides government market education primarily for small businesses in online format, on demand, 24/7 through a mix of live webinars, e-courses, podcasts and digital resources. Govology provides access to more than 100 courses at no cost to City-certified firms. The site has been made available to the 1,200 City-certified businesses.