The arrival of Formula 1 racing and the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin has regional officials expecting to see fresh fuel added to area economies and could mean even more gains for two Cedar Park businesses with automotive industry ties.
While many area officials have said the direct effects of F1 and COTA will only be clear when the track opens in 2012, there is optimism that the economic gains will travel outside Austin and will spread the wealth throughout Central Texas through hotel occupancy and sales taxes.
Corvalent, which designs embedded computers for supercars, and Fallbrook Technologies, which designs continuously variable transmissions that could have an application with F1 and vehicle manufacturers, could both benefit from having F1 in the area.
“When the racing time comes, we’re definitely going to participate in a lot of events that would involve networking with their people to try to infiltrate into their automotive divisions,” Corvalent CEO Ed Trevis said.
Austin’s increased presence in automotive racing could open networking doors and bring key stakeholders to the region.
“I think in the automotive world, it’s incredible for the general image of Austin and just bringing the whole automotive world down here to Austin,” said Rob Smithson, Fallbrook’s vice president of business development. “It’s a great way to get Austin on the automotive map.”
Rooms for rent
Don Hoyte, the principal at Texas Trust Funds, conducted an economic study of F1 and said he expects the event’s draw will need hotel rooms well beyond what Austin can handle, requiring fans to rent rooms as far away as San Antonio.
“It’s going to be significant for them [surrounding cities] when the race happens because the hotel situation around here will be pretty darn tight the week of that race,” Hoyte said.
Cedar Park Economic Development Director Phil Brewer said that the effect could be greater than South by Southwest on hotel rooms.
The overflow could also draw visitors to the Cedar Park Center, depending on which Cedar Park Center event corresponds with the race, Brewer said.
Kirk Clennan, Leander economic development director, said he thinks Leander has positioned itself well as a destination for automotive enthusiasts and that could continue when F1 and COTA arrive.
Widespread economic gains
The first F1 race is tentatively scheduled for June 17, 2012, but recent reports from international media suggest the race could be moved to Nov. 18, 2012. The race, at the $400 million COTA track near Toll 130, southeast of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, is estimated to bring in more than 100,000 people from across the world.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has said the events could bring in $300 million annually, rivaling the Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup.
The track will also host annual MotoGP motorcycle world championship events in addition to dozens of other major events each year, according to COTA reports.
Combs said in 2010 she expects the track and its facilities will spur research and development for fuel technology and aerodynamics.
In addition to increased area toll usage, Clennan said, he hopes to see an expansion of the Capital MetroRail to the track and airport, giving the area another mode of transportation to avoid crowded roads during race time.
“This is one of the world’s foremost sporting events. Having an event of that profile in Austin, I don’t even know how’d you begin to put a value on it,” Smithson said.