Austin Vs. Seattle: Talent, Innovation, And Place

June 30, 2014

By: John Karras, Consultant, TIP Strategies & Jeff Marcell, Senior Partner, TIP Strategies

The View from the Austonian by Todd Dwyer Via Flickr
Seattle Space Needle by David Lee Via Flickr

Now that TIP Strategies has a permanent presence in both Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington we’ve been having fun comparing and contrasting the two regions. One feature the two share: momentous growth. According to two recent articles, Austin’s metro area is the “fastest growing large metro area” and the City of Seattle is the “fastest growing large city.” This growth is a direct result of another commonality between Austin and Seattle, a cool factor that generates a gravitational pull of people, investment, and attention.
Speaking of cool, Seattle was recently named America’s Most Hipster City by “Thrillist” …Austin came in at #3. And between the two cities, you have a long list of internationally recognized events and festivals: South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, Bumbershoot, the Seattle International Film Festival, Seafair, and many others. If you want to define cool, you can’t get closer than Austin and Seattle. The evidence is substantial:

While the competition for cool is a fun conversation, we at TIP Strategies do take successful economies very seriously. There is much more than the entertaining buzz of oddball rankings that drives the success of these regions. Our firm has identified the formula to economic success as Talent, Innovation, and Place. Austin and Seattle have tapped into this formula and are benefiting from job growth and investment because they deliver on these critical components of a successful economy.
The regions are similar in a number of important ways:

  • The Austin and Seattle metros are national leaders in population growth as evidenced by the latest Census data.
  • Both cities also lead the nation in job growth. In fact, the U.S. News & World Report recently included Austin and Seattle in its list of “The 10 Best Cities to Find Jobs” (Austin is #5, Seattle is #6).
  • The Austin and Seattle regions contain the most significant concentrations of high-tech companies in the country outside of Silicon Valley and Boston, thanks to headquarters and major facilities of tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Dell, Apple, Samsung, and many others.
  • Both cities have high levels of educational attainment (44.8% of Austin residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree and 56.5% of Seattle residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to a U.S. average of 28.5%).

But each region meets the Talent, Innovation, and Place formula in its own unique way. Let’s briefly explore how the regional economies of Seattle and Austin are leading the pack:
Talent:
Austin and Seattle are both magnets for talented professionals and entrepreneurs. The talent pool in each metro area is the basic building block of each region’s economy. Of course, the cool factor in both cities helps to attract talent from across the country. But each city also has a strong pool of locally grown talent thanks in large part to the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington, two of the top public universities in the world. As economic development professionals, we understand that access to talent is the number one issue for both companies and communities. Here’s how Austin and Seattle compare in the competition for talent:

  • A recent study by the Milken Institute ranked the Austin and Seattle metro areas as two of the “Top 10 Best-Performing Cities” (Austin is #1, Seattle is #6). The study analyzed the 200 largest metro areas based on job, wage, and technology growth.

Innovation:
There’s a special kind of energy in Austin and Seattle that you just don’t feel in most cities. Both places are hotbeds of creativity and innovation. This is partly due to the influx of people moving to these cities each day, but it’s also due to the level of growth taking place in locally based start-ups and small businesses. Austin and Seattle are among an elite group of cities that are on the cutting edge of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Here are a few examples of how the economies of Austin and Seattle are driving innovation:

Place:
The level of growth (population, jobs, investment) taking place in the regional economies of Austin and Seattle is strong evidence of each metro area’s quality of place. You can experience this first-hand simply by seeing the amount of construction cranes towering over each city’s urban core. Yet even if you’ve never visited either city, chances are you have a good impression of them. Each city has its own unique brand, but they are both vibrant cities with strong identities.
If a quick look at the population and job growth data (or construction cranes) isn’t enough to convince you that Austin and Seattle are two of the most appealing places in the U.S., here are a few more examples that might do the trick:

  • Jones Lang Lasalle recently named Austin and Seattle among the “World’s 20 Most Dynamic Cities” as part of its proprietary City Momentum Index (Austin is #7, Seattle is #18).
  • Austin and Seattle both rank highly on the “City Energy Efficiency Scorecard” LINK http://aceee.org/local-policy/city-scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (Austin is #6, Seattle is #5).

TIP Strategies is linked to each of these metropolitan economies like no other economic strategy firm. Our approach is grounded in understanding these economies, taking what we know to be their successful components, and applying and leveraging these lessons for the benefit of the communities we work with across the country. Being connected to and engaged in the two capitals of Talent, Innovation, and Place is our strategic advantage.
While our staff will continue to have fun debating which TIP location is cooler, we will always place serious emphasis on the lessons we can take from each of these metropolitan economies, lessons we can bring to our clients to help them build their own unique brands through Talent, Innovation, and place.