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Boomtown: Pushing past the pandemic | KVUE special | kvue.com

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This is Boomtown: "Beyond the Epidemic", this is a special speech by KVUE.

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Chapter One

The most popular Austin hotel opens in 2021

Chapter two

How do some companies adapt

third chapter

Change plans for two high-rise developments on Rainey Street

Chapter Four

Austin real estate market soars

chapter Five

Austin renters find it difficult to find an apartment that suits their budget

Chapter Six

Manufacturing boosts Austin's economy

Chapter VII

Despite COVID-19, music is still going on in Austin

About a year has passed since the coronavirus pandemic flooded central Texas. With that comes loss and destruction.

Many beloved companies are closed for good, and some companies will be closed forever.

With the cessation of travel, Austin's tourism industry has also suffered, forcing industry leaders to make difficult decisions. This is KVUE’s special speech "City of Prosperity: Beyond the Epidemic".

Watch the first part of the special program below


Despite the uncertainty, many companies still performed well and expanded further. This is not only a local business, but the company is migrating to Central Texas to start over. Texas adds 1,000 new residents every day.

The big companies that have moved to Austin and expanded there are

this way. Austin has 9 effective incentive agreements totaling more than $112 million.

KVUE Defenders learned that Samsung is currently negotiating a deal to build a new chip factory on land it already owns near its northeast Austin factory. It requires the largest property tax return from Austin and Travis counties.

Apple, Tesla and Samsung will get more revenue from the county. Travis County has eight positive incentive agreements.

Regardless of whether there are incentives or not, Austin regards companies as a common goal, which is to make this emerging city continue to grow and develop.

At the Austin airport, the construction of a large expansion project was delayed. The airport was supposed to start the bidding process for some contracts this summer, but now they are waiting for the return of passengers. Most of the expansion is driven by demand, which has dropped 62% overall in 2020. The airport still plans to double its size by 2040, but it is unclear when it will start.

Looking out from Fairmont (one of the most iconic buildings and hotels in the downtown Austin skyline), you can see staring at so many hotels, employing thousands of employees. Some people say that at the peak of the pandemic, the hotel industry is one of the hardest hit areas.

It is estimated that approximately 80% of hotel employees in the area have been fired or taken leave. 

However, with the advent of vaccines, people are optimistic about the prospects for 2021. Leisure travel is making a comeback, and some hotels are finally expected to open after many delays.

The coronavirus pandemic has not prevented large companies from migrating or expanding to Austin. But small businesses—the companies that make up Austin as we know them—must find new ways to survive.

For some people, these methods are not enough to keep the door open.

In the past 17 years,

People on South Congress Avenue mainly rely on the flow of people as their main source of sales.

But when the pandemic hit in March, business almost stalled. Compared with April 2020, sales in the same month of 2019 dropped by nearly 93%.

Store owner Lizelle Villapando said: "It feels like me personally, able to play a role with minimal output."

The store was forced to close, faced new restrictions, and had to deal with employee exposure to the virus. Villapando's knowledge of store operations quickly turned into ways to keep up with changing rules, ensure employee safety, and find new ways to maintain cash flow.

Verapando said: "This is a complete job in itself."

Almost immediately, she found a lifeline in digital sales. She started posting more on Facebook and Instagram-but it was not easy to shift to focus on virtual traffic.

"We have an online business, but it's just a side note, it's mandatory, or when we pay high rents for crowded areas, it doesn't make any sense to invest a lot of labor time in an online store," Verapando said. "Without tourism elements, it is like the next and only option."

As a small business owner, she has no knowledge, experience or infrastructure to run an online store. This is a time-consuming task and requires some expensive consultation.

In the end it really paid off.

In January 2021, Parts & Labor’s digital sales revenue was five times that of the same month in 2020.

Verapando said: "This is a huge bite, but if we want this store to survive, we have to do it-and we have to do it."

But next door

, Survival is not a question of surfing the Internet.

Owner Brandon Hodge said: “It is difficult for any business that is based on tourism or the flow of people.” In the candy business, online retailers have been established. They will be the first in all Google search lists. "

In the past 13 years, Hodge has had the best battlefield in the Southern Congress. His business has dropped by about 65% in 2020.

Hodge said: "Many of us are hopeful that we can persist long enough to successfully recover." There is no doubt that this will take several years. We have experienced a year-long economic recovery here, and small businesses will always be the first country to go. "

A kind

Unfortunately, it closed down during the pandemic.

According to

(DAA), at least 12% of the 742 storefront businesses in the urban area were permanently closed last year.

"People flow is blood, right? It's the lifeline. You need customers to enter and participate in any product you sell or provide," said Jenell Moffett, Director of Research and Analysis at DAA.

According to DAA data, business in downtown Austin has begun to grow, and has grown by approximately 14% since July.

Although the worst may be over, business owners like Villapando are still waiting for the best. She makes wise choices every day at work.

Villapando said: “Choosing people who are adaptable and flexible will reduce frustration.”

She did not feel frustrated by making this choice, but she was still waiting for the flow of people from the bustling Southern Congress.

At the same time, on this street, changes to the Austin skyline are coming.

Over the city, dozens of cranes twisted the skyline of Austin.

Each one marks a new development.

On Rainey Street, two high-rise buildings will see their own cranes in the coming months.

The first is planned to be built where the current container bar and bungalow are located. Just on the road at the corner of River and Rainey Street, the second project is expected to be constructed where Craft Pride is currently operating.

However, unlike other high-rise buildings, the developers of these two projects were forced to abandon their original plans due to the pandemic.

Kevin Burns is the developer and CEO of


He said: "We are improving this project. I decided to make major adjustments to the project based on what I saw was the writing on the wall."

He fell behind the project on Rainey's 90th and 92nd, before March last year...

Burns said: "This will be a hotel with 300 keys, a bar on the basement floor, and then a residence."

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic, Burns got rid of the hotel part of the job and spent a year and a half.

"I have to endure the fact that I have paid countless investments and a lot of money because all the work we did when designing it as a hotel and residential project was let go and we were able to look forward to the future. The path is clear. "Burns said.

The project is now a residential tower tentatively designated as 9092 Rainey, which is a 51-story, 440-room high-rise building. Twenty of them are affordable housing. 

We asked River Street Residences, the developer of the second project, to conduct an interview. They refused. We got a statement.

Part of its content is: "The early concept of the website required a mixed use plan for hotels and residences, but due to the disruption of the hotel market due to COVID-19, the hotel's plan was cancelled in 2020 for the design pandemic."

According to data from Source Strategies, which tracks the hotel industry in Texas, the hotel market has been hit hard in 2020.

In fact, Vice President Pal Vaughn said that Austin was the hardest hit.

"Of course. Yes, I would definitely say yes. Austin is the highest REVPAR of all cities in the state. REVPAR is the revenue per available room... Austin is the state’s best and brightest hotel market, so it’s the highest Height, and the farthest to fall." Vaughan said.

Vaughan said that in the second quarter of 2020, demand for hotel rooms in Austin fell by 86%.

His analysis also shows that compared with the third quarter of 2020, total revenue has fallen by 60% since the third quarter of 2020.

He said: "We don't expect revenue to return to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024. So, yes, if developers who are now making plans really have to consider options."

Josue Meiners also wants developers to think twice when it comes to historic districts such as Rainey Street. He serves on the Austin Design Committee. Although Meiners did not speak on behalf of the committee, he did believe that the epidemic had a role in the advisory group.

"I would never want a company to suffer losses due to the pandemic, but I think this provides an opportunity for many developers to re-examine the current market conditions. Think about the future of our city and what we really need, and make Adjust accordingly. Therefore, I am very happy to see positive results for what is obviously such a loss for many people." Minas said.

At the same time, Burns stated that he is negotiating with Container Bar and Bungalow to make them part of 9092 Rainey.

It is expected to break ground sometime next year at a cost of 2.5 billion US dollars. He said that this is a two-and-a-half-year project and it will continue to develop Rainey Street.  

Housing shortages and rising prices prove that the epidemic has not changed the housing market in Central Texas. 

In emerging cities like Austin, more and more companies decide to take root, and families find it more difficult to do so. 

The median house price in the Austin-Round Rock market is now $365,000. KVUE tried to find houses in this price range, but only encountered a few. You must go to Liberty Hill or Leander or settle in Cedar Park or a permanent job in Austin. The premise is that you can find something fast enough to make a convincing offer. Even if all the factors are in place, becoming a home buyer can be troublesome. 

In life, buying a house is like taking a cake. You need to have all the right ingredients to get there. This is why buying a house in central Texas is not easy. 

"It's absolutely frustrating. It's frustrating." Blake Triplett said. 

Triplett lived in Austin for five years. He is looking for more space and hopes to take advantage of low interest rates, but it turns out that his search is difficult.

Triplett said: "Inventories are scarce and competition is so fierce. People spend money that is usually even the most recent history. Sometimes they can't even afford those houses, or even crazy."  

His bid on the house has been four times higher.

"I think you will never be in a situation of multiple quotes in this situation. We are not just talking about two or three. These are five, fifteen, twenty, thirty quotes, which is nonsense. " 

Susan Horton,

President, he is helping Triplett search in historically low-stock markets.

"What inventory?" she questioned. "As of today, there are about 500 houses for sale in Travis in Williamson (county). If you look at all the five counties of Austin MSA, we have about 700 houses for sale." 

Usually, the number of areas is three times this number. It is not uncommon for houses and contracts to be signed before the for-sale sign is placed in the front yard. And their prices are often thousands of times higher than the asking price.

"When you own a house worth 399,000 US dollars, it should actually be around 350,000 US dollars. It is already a bit marketable. Then you will see that they sell for more than 500,000 US dollars. This is a crazy period. Become the norm." Norton said. 

Austin real estate agent Chris Jacobs said: “Because people need houses, we see asking prices 10, 15, 20, 40% higher than asking prices.” 

In Texas, tracking these trends is more difficult. The state does not require home buyers to disclose what they paid for the house.         

This is why Jacobs wrote the "Housing Report," which uses data from the MLS list to view prices across the central Texas housing market on a monthly basis.         

He found that even in certain homes that were once considered "our affordable suburbs" (such as Cedar Park), it is almost impossible to find homes that cost less than $400,000. The average selling price of houses there is $66,000 higher than the asking price.

Their average closing price this year is $491,000. Moreover, we have always believed that Cedar Park is an affordable area where you can buy a house for the first time, then plant land and live in Austin, and still be able to commute. But, you know, at a price of $491,000, it quickly approaches "not a first-time home buyer," Jacobs said.

It's not just Cedar Park. Look at the average price of houses sold since January.  

The average price in Austin is $723,000. This is $40,000 higher than the asking price. In Pflugerville, the average price is $372,000, while the average price of Round Rock is $408,000. Leander's average closing price was $485,000. In Del Valle,

, The average closing price was $545,000. This is a relatively cheap price because the average selling price of houses there is about US$3,000 lower than the asking price.

"It's cruel, it's cruel." said Socar Chatman-Thomas, an experienced Austin real estate agent who helped first-time and long-term experienced home buyers.

"It's unaffordable. That's what we have. We don't have affordable labor housing in the Austin area," she said.  

The record low inventory has also brought challenges to the construction of new houses.

Some builders bid the highest bidder or raise the price when the auction starts. As a result, the price of the home that was sold for $429,000 last month has now risen by thousands of dollars.

"Who wants to sit there, know that my starting price is $429,000, since I did nothing, so the current price is $479,000. Someone tells you, this is the price. You need to process it, and then get on board to buy or the next . The reason for this is because they have about 150 people waiting to enter the list of the community." Chatman-Thomas (Chatman-Thomas) said.

The reality is that compared to other places such as California, Chicago and New York, houses here are relatively cheap. As many companies moved to Austin, people from these areas realized that they could get more money. They bring cash.

Chatman-Thomas (Chatman-Thomas) said: "When you compete with an investor who has cash or another buyer who has cash, you will lose money every time you raise money." 

The secret of success is definitely changing. Austin used to be full of sweet deals.

"You feel like you just can't win money and rest. To be honest, it makes you really worried that you don't have it. Do I want to get myself into something that I can't handle in the future?" asked the triplets.

Now, promising homebuyers (such as Triplett) worry that their teeth might be chewing more than they would. 

Another problem is the impact of all these home sales on the current real estate value. The homestead tax exemption limits how much your property tax can be increased each year, but it can still be increased by 10%.

For example, a person who has lived in Austin for 26 years and started to pay $1,300 in taxes each year. Now, these property taxes are $9,000 per year. Therefore, it is becoming more and more difficult for those who have lived in Austin for a long time. 

Finding an apartment in Austin is easy. Finding one in the budget may be another matter.

This is what Luis Castro quickly realized after talking to a real estate agent about his relocation from Houston to Austin.

Castro said: "When she first sent me $1,200, I was like,'Remember, I want an apartment.' "'I don't want a house. Like, I don’t want to rent a house. That's too much. '"

He added: "She was like,'No, these are apartments.'"

Many changes have taken place since Castro, who graduated from the University of Texas, left his job six years ago. according to

Although Austin sees the largest decline in apartment rents in the country in 2020, at 2.5%, it is still the most expensive market in Texas.

Data shows that as of January, the average apartment rent in Austin was $1,308 per month, the average rent in Dallas-Fort Worth was $1,223, Houston was $1,109, and San Antonio was $1,041.

Castro said: "My budget is up to US$800." "I hope it will not exceed this range, but I have been looking for a price range of US$650 to US$700. I think this price is too high."

Castro is one of millions of Americans who have tried to get back on their feet after the COVID-19 pandemic swept through work. After postponing his start date to October to start a new job in Austin and tightening his budget for two months, the chemist found a 700 square foot one-bedroom unit in North Austin, with a monthly rent of about $870. The lease term is 9 months. .

Castro said: "I hope it will be more spacious, because not only this apartment-the highway is there, so it is difficult to sleep."

During the pandemic, both tenants and landlords must make sacrifices.

The company's executive vice president Emily Blair (Emily Blair) said: "Our rental housing suppliers are facing increasing costs."

. "Taxes have increased, insurance premiums have increased, but all the costs of resolving COVID and all equipment have increased."

Blair said that the goal of the association has always been to keep people in their homes, but it has stopped moving out of their homes in the city for nearly a year, adding to the financial pressure on both sides.

Blair said: "What we need is something that can solve the increasing financial pressure of our residents and rental housing providers."

Blair said the apartment rental market in the Austin area is also addressing its lowest occupancy rate drop since the 2009 recession. Blair said that by the end of 2020, the district's occupancy rate will drop to 89%, lower than the usual 92%.

Sam Tenenbaum, head of analytics at Apartments.com, said there are many reasons for the decline.

He said: "You know, people who move to Austin seem to move only after they buy a house, not the past few years."

Blair said: "Single-family housing is in great demand, and prices have indeed soared, but we are also facing some tight supply, and the price of single-family housing is still rising."

For apartments, supply is not an issue. By 2020, more than 12,000 new apartment houses have been added, and more than 11,000 new houses have emerged this year, which has also played an important role in the city’s low apartment occupancy rate.

Turnebaum said: "In the country, only the other three major markets have more apartments built than we have in Austin." "That's the Dallas-Fort Worth, New York and Houston subways. So we rank. fourth."

Tenenbaum said that in urban areas and other areas, the decline in occupancy rates is more serious, but submarkets such as Round Rock and Cedar Park have seen a positive turnaround.

"The migration to the suburbs is already happening, and I think the COVID has accelerated this step, whether it is because people are unemployed or can work remotely, or because they need to work from home and need to change to a larger apartment," he said.

Tenebaum said that many apartment providers offer deals like rent-free for one or two months.

"But in this country's grand plan, our $1,300 mark in Austin is actually lower than the national average. That's why we continue to see people coming to Austin from Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Because it's relatively cheap." Tenebaum said.

In the past year, large technology giants such as Tesla and Oracle have gone to Austin to give this weird city a new nickname: "Silicon Mountain." The wave is not expected to stop.

Castro said: "I know that within nine months, my prices may rise, or I have to look elsewhere."

For now, only time will tell whether Austin will live up to his new nickname and whether ordinary working Americans like Castro will be able to find affordable apartments within the city limits.

The coronavirus pandemic has stalled the local economy in the spring of 2020. Soon after, the machines began to be shipped out in the Austin area.

Rick Bean said: "By April, our output was four times the normal output."

Biehn is the company’s senior manufacturing director


. Luminex makes cartridges that allow people to test for COVID-19 within a few hours. 

As the demand for testing has increased, so has the demand for machine personnel.

Bean said: "We started hiring people, and now it has grown from about 25 ordinary employees to more than 100."

The demand for testing continues to grow, so Aries and Luminex will fully automate their operations to further increase their supply to meet demand.

Biehn said: "We have invested in comprehensive automation technology. By the end of this year, we will continue to do so and introduce another machine at high-speed automation." "This will reverse the situation. However, it will increase our capabilities. More than doubled."

Bringing another machine will reduce the number of people who assemble the ink cartridges. After the pandemic is over, the cartridge can be used to help identify multiple diseases and viruses.

However, Luminex is not the only growing company. The entire manufacturing industry has always been the pillar for the survival of other economies in Austin.

The organization’s chief executive Ed Latson said: “Since the beginning of the economy, we have added more than 2,000 jobs to the economy, and most industries are reducing employment.”

. "I think I was a little surprised in March."

Latson believes that Austin's commercial development has brought economic success to the city, while being independent of the rest of Texas and the country. The growth of the city and the diversification of business have contributed to the survival of the economy.

Ratson said: "We have a new world economy here." "Facebook, indeed, just like you have a successful company in this environment here, we are just reaping benefits."

As the company grows and flocks to Austin, this means more manufacturing.

“Due to the pandemic and high unemployment, the focus has now shifted to workable skills,” said Laura Marmolejo, director of the senior manufacturing department.

Since the fall semester of 2018, Marmolejo's course enrollment has grown steadily. At that time, 138 students participated in the program. There will be 157 students in the second year and 166 in 2020. The program helps students learn employability skills so that they can immediately enter the workforce.

Marmolejo said: "Although this is a hands-on industry like I said, we have learned more to work remotely." "There are many things that can be done remotely."

Ashly Mattke is one of the students. She used to work as part of the ACC work research program. After the epidemic hit, her work-study job disappeared. She can find another internship through one of the school’s growing manufacturers in the country:

"I'm basically like a technician," Mattek said. "I will graduate this semester, so I will work hard. I want to work full-time and work more than 50 hours a week."

Not to mention that Matke needs to take care of his family when they come to school and work at home.

Samsung and its TVs and phones make semiconductors. Today, semiconductors have become almost every technology. Because of how important and common they have become, the federal government has begun to prioritize them.

"Sen. Cornyn and I and our fellow Democrats introduced

", Rep. Michael McCall (R-Austin) said.

In February,

Improve the manufacturing industry in the United States and bring back employment in the United States from other countries (such as China).

McCall said: "In his words,'I'm going all out, I want to do everything possible to help you achieve this goal."

Regarding the people and machines testing COVID-19 on Luminex, Biehn believes that this growth will continue for a long time after the pandemic is over.

Biehn said: "When you really understand the whole situation, we are not only COVID testing. We are also a multinational company headquartered in Austin." "We have a lot of testing methods in all other departments of Luminex. Therefore, I think we all People continue to see the growth in these areas and respond to it."

Although the concert hall of the Austin Long Performing Arts Center is empty, the sweet sound of classical music bands continues to permeate as musicians play the works of the world's greatest composers. 

However, due to vacancies in large music venues, the band will only play for cameras this season. Social alienation regulations have forced Austin’s three largest art organizations (symphony, opera and ballet) to abruptly cancel their live performances in 2020, which may be devastating for performing artists who rely on live paying audiences Sexual development.

Peter Bay said: "We missed the opportunity to perform for the audience"

Music director and conductor. "We missed the audience, and we also missed the opportunity to get along with others."

Also missing is the revenue from ticket sales, which still keeps performing arts groups alive. However, the Austin Symphony Orchestra and other organizations such as

And Ballet Austin (Ballet Austin) survived, largely due to technology. With the advent of powerful video streaming and digital production tools, local performance artists have discovered new ways to reach their audience during the pandemic.

In the past few months, local art sponsors have paid for watching videos of locally produced classical performances, such as the virtual Nutcracker Ballet performed by artists

This past holiday. The Austin Opera House also switched to new technologies.

"We figured out how to become an opera filmmaker," said Annie Burridge, General Manager and CEO of Austin Opera. "We have been showing opera live and online at Blue Starlight."

In the new year, Austin’s opera, ballet and symphony orchestra have high hopes that the region can quickly reverse the trend of the pandemic. As of March, each organization plans to perform regular performances in front of the live concert hall audience before the fall of 2021.

"There is no doubt that people will want to come here again, and all of Austin’s art, whether it’s classical, opera or pop, rock, country, whatever it is, we will return to normal, and we will become one of the world’s live music Du: Coexist with the audience." Bei said.

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