Since the beginning of September, a handful of companies have announced their intent to create nearly 1,500 jobs in Northwest Austin during the next few years.
Automaker General Motors tops the list with 500 jobs planned for its IT Innovation Center in a former Dell building at 717 E. Parmer Lane. HID Global Corp. plans to bring 276 jobs to its manufacturing and distribution center, Yodle is expected to grow from 375 to nearly 800 Austin employees, SecureNet Payment Systems plans to add nearly 200 employees in the next 12 months and Indeed.com is expected to add 90 jobs this year.
That job total does not include Apple Inc.’s plans to build a new facility and hire 3,600 people.
“These types of jobs will be some of the best-paying jobs,” said Dave Porter, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
However, the economic impact these new jobs will have on the Northwest Austin economy is harder to gauge, Porter said. For companies such as Apple and HID Global, which are receiving incentives from the state, City of Austin and Travis County, governing bodies use software to input data on the company’s investment, projected salaries and other factors that go into analyzing the economic impact.
Getting the jobs to Austin
In the past few years, the chamber focused on encouraging companies to relocate to Austin or open new offices in the city. Porter said the chamber has had contact with 78 percent of the companies that do make the move to Austin.
Getting HID Global to Austin started with the chamber making a cold call to the company’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters three years ago. With GM, the chamber initially prepped the company to go through the incentive process. GM opted not to pursue incentives, but Porter said the chamber provided the company with information on Austin’s labor force and IT talent. He said how involved the chamber gets with bringing business to Austin depends on the company.
“Everyone’s different. We can spend three years like [we did] with HID Global,” Porter said.
Online marketing company Yodle, which recently relocated to a 100,000-square-foot office at 12234 N. I-35, had also considered expanding in Scottsdale, Ariz. Porter said the chamber visited Yodle at its New York headquarters, a move that paid off.
“Between the chamber and the [Texas] governor’s office, it was really their involvement that tipped the balance for us [to Austin],” Yodle CEO Court Cunningham said.
Porter said this activity has been consistent over the past three years because companies are looking to grow in cities with a vast talent base and at a low cost to grow.
“In a global recession, we did not know what to expect,” he said. “It surprised us how active it’s been.”
As some of the companies start hiring in 2012, the jobs will factor into the city’s overall new job count for the year. Angelos Angelou, founder and principal at economic consulting firm Angelou Economics, said 22,000 new jobs were created in 2011, and as of June, about 18,000 jobs had already been created in the city.
“I am comfortable that we can reach and exceed 25,000 [new] jobs this year,” he said. “There were announcements made that give a lot of momentum to the economy.”
The job pool
Most of the jobs announced in the past couple of months are tech-related. GM is hiring for software developers, database experts, business analysts and other IT professionals. HID Global, a secure identities solutions company, will be hiring many entry-level positions for its manufacturing and distribution center. Yodle’s Austin office focuses on sales and marketing.
“To me, this represents good diversifying of tech companies,” Porter said. “It’s a good job opportunity for a lot of people in Travis County and Williamson County.”
Indeed.com, which was recently acquired by Japanese firm Recruit Co., has leased 66,000 square feet of space at the Reserve on Bull Creek, 7501 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. The company has 175 employees in Austin and will be hiring 90 additional employees this year, eventually filling out to 400 employees.
SecureNet has about 12 employees in Austin and plans to hire 50 more by the end of the year. The company relocated to the Riata office park, 12357B Riata Trace Parkway, and the new innovation center will serve as a central hub for departments such as sales, marketing, product development, engineering and innovation.
“One of the reasons we chose Austin is because of the plethora of talent in the area,” said Greg Constantine, executive vice president of client operations for SecureNet.
Although not every company has revealed average salaries for new employees, HID Global plans to pay employees an average wage of $51,398, which Porter said is lower than what GM will offer. He said people hired for these positions likely will have more disposable income.
“These are wealth-producing jobs,” Porter said.
Making an impact
The effect on the economy is harder to pinpoint at companies such as SecureNet that will not receive incentives. Often, employees are involved in the community by volunteering.
Constantine said SecureNet’s growth will potentially have a “positive, long-term effect” on Northwest Austin residents, as the company plans to be involved in local charities and organizations. Yodle also encourages employees to volunteer and has a committee to help organize different volunteer opportunities.
“It’s good for teams to bond outside of the office,” Cunningham said.
Radley Moss, Yodle’s director of corporate communications, said last year the company sponsored the CASA Superhero Run for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County, and the office collected coats for the Junior League Coats for Kids drive.
A company’s effect on the economy also depends on its investment in employees and facilities. HID Global is constructing a $30 million manufacturing and distribution center while Yodle plans to invest $100 million in Austin salaries alone in the next five years.
“The more money a company puts in, the better it is for a community,” Moss said.