Imagine Austin Annual Report      September 2019

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The Continue to Grow Austin's Economy by Investing in our Workforce, Education Systems, Entrepreneurs, and Local Businesses Priority Program seeks to ensure Austin’s continued economic health by developing a widely skilled workforce, recruiting new businesses, retaining and growing existing businesses, and tapping into our entrepreneurial spirit. In particular, this priority program seeks to increase job opportunities for Austin residents and increase small businesses and entrepreneurship. 

Workforce, Small Business, and Education



Souly Austin Program Expanding

Souly Austin is celebrating four years of place-based economic development focused on creating and retaining strong, vibrant, culturally rich and diverse neighborhood business districts throughout Austin. The program is expanding through an application process for neighborhood business districts interested in services to assist in forming a merchants association.  

The Souly Austin Program is a true partnership, working with dozens of partners across City departments, local agencies, community groups and more. These many partners, along with our business leaders, have been the backbone of a program that includes engagement with over 1,200 small, local businesses and over 1,700 hours of volunteer time from business leaders, all in support of the preservation and prosperity of neighborhood business districts that are so essential to complete communities.

Read more about Souly Austin at

Panel discussion from the release of Reflections on a Legacy: East 12th Street, produced by the East Twelfth Street merchants Association through the Souly Austin placemaking award. The speaker in this photo is Volma Overton III, current Board president of ETSMA; panelists include the creators and interview subjects of the film.

Program Champion: Preston Stewart

Departments: Economic Development, Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation, Austin Public Library, Human Resources, Austin Public Health 

Austin's Newest Sister City - Pune, India

After two years of development, Austin recognized its first Sister City in five years: Pune, India. The idea was born from a recommendation from the Asian American Quality of Life Commission to form a relationship with an Indian city to leverage Austin’s fastest growing segment of the Asian American population.


The buildup to this important designation required a dedicated Austin Sister Cities International citizen group and robust community engagement that included an #ATXBound Business Delegation in partnership with the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, a Smart City Hackathon in partnership with University of Texas, four public “Literary Cultural Exchanges”, and a clean water research and development grant award between Austin Water and Pune University.

Family Opportunity Roadmap: The Austin/Travis County 2-Generation Plan

Austin City Councilmembers and staff from the Economic Development Department and Austin Public Health joined a host of regional agencies, experts, and community organizations under the leadership of United Way for Greater Austin to create and support the Austin/Travis County 2-Gen Strategic Plan, laying the groundwork to intentionally coordinate services for parents and children over the next five years, and making Austin the first community in the nation to develop a grassroots, community-wide two generation strategic plan.

The 2-Gen approach to family economic opportunity brings services and resources for parents and children together, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both generations. Over the past several years, leaders across sectors in Austin/Travis County have worked together to better understand and promote a dual-generational (2-Gen) approach aimed at disrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Austin Fast Start

Austin Fast Start is a partnership with the City of Austin Economic Development Department’s Small Business Program, Austin Young Chamber, Austin Resource Recovery, Office of Sustainability, and the Austin Public Library. Fast Start Pitch competitions are hosted quarterly for local, small businesses and target specific business industries including: Consumer Packaged Goods, Education Technology, Bio-Medical Technology, Fashion, Mobility Innovation, Sustainable Business and more. Pitch finalists are selected through a competitive application process before presenting to a live audience. The competitions focus on priorities to grow or expand local small businesses. Pitch contestants are also supported with a new Industry Research Class provided by the City’s Small Business Coach offering analysis, demographics, and financial benchmarking aligned with the pitch industries.

Box Bazaar Small Business Incubation

The Box Bazaar is a temporary neighborhood installation that is activating city-owned land in East Austin by housing five business incubator spaces from small, local businesses in retrofitted shipping containers and by creating a vibrant neighborhood center with programming designed to benefit the surrounding community. 

This City of Austin pilot project aims to bring citywide goals for complete communities, economic opportunity, and equity to life in a yearlong demonstration - the first of its kind in Austin.


Learn more about the Box Bazaar Small Business Incubator here.



Austin’s economy, workforce, education systems, entrepreneurs, and local businesses are faced with many challenges that come with rapid and sustained growth. Despite Austin’s recent economic successes, the benefits have not been enjoyed equally or equitably throughout the community. Regional growth patterns and dynamic market forces create difficulties and added costs for residents and business, as well as the City, education systems, and others who serve the community.


Affordable housing is a mounting concern for the workforce while commercial affordability has also become a common struggle. Sharp price increases for commercial space have created challenges felt most significantly among our more vulnerable small and local businesses. A tightening labor market presents yet another example of how our economic successes have also created challenges of their own. This priority program team and the City will continue to pursue clear priorities and scalable solutions to keep up with the pace of growth and ensure paths to prosperity for all.