The Austin City Council voted unanimously Dec. 6 to approve an economic development agreement with Visa Inc. to establish a Global IT Center in Austin that will create at least 794 jobs and cost the city $1.56 million over 10 years.
One provision added to the contract at the Dec. 6 council meeting was requiring the architect and general contractor to pay employees a minimum hourly wage of $11.
“What it clearly demonstrates is that in many cases, we can add these values to this proposal to only enhance it and make it that much better for all the folks that are impacted by it and welcome you, and Visa, and all of your workforce to your new facility here in Austin,” Councilman Mike Martinez said.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell said that particular provision was a special case because Visa is planning to renovate an existing building, rather than construct a new one.
“I just wanted to make that important because this is a precedent-setting event,” Leffingwell said. "As we consider other applicants in the future for these types of agreements, I don't want it to be said that Visa did this. This is an entirely special situation.”
The economic development agreement requires Visa to invest about $18.7 million in real property improvements and $8.7 million in business personal property improvements. Real property is defined as land or anything attached to it and personal property applies to items that are not attached to the land, but are subject to ownership.
The average annual wage for jobs at the IT center is $113,351. The center will be located in the Research Park III building at 12301 Research Blvd.
Richard Viktorin, who spoke during the public comment on the item, raised the concern about oversight for the provisions in the contract and ensuring the agreement is upheld.
“After we grant them them the incentive, is there accountability?” Viktorin said. “Do we have anybody looking to see if jobs were created, that all the standards that were put into the agreement were adhered to?”
The city offered incentive packages to other companies in the past, including Apple Inc., eBay and HID Global Inc.
Another question was posed by Councilwoman Laura Morrison, who asked Visa representatives about efforts to develop a qualified job pool for the additional jobs.
“We have had an opportunity to talk with the Texas Workforce Commission and [Austin Community College] regarding their their skill development program,” said Nancy Claybaugh, director of human resources with Visa. “This program is something we think, if we come to Austin, would be very interesting for us to explore further.”
Hector Aguilar, dean of continuing education at Austin Community College, said officials with the school have met with the company and that the college often offers specialized training and curriculum for companies.
“We do this for many different companies...But in addition to that, we have a very strong computer science department, for example, that could provide many employees for this company as we do for others.” Aguilar said. “We also have numerous IT courses that we offer through continuing education."