Renowned for its quality of life and creative industries, the Austin metropolitan area consistently lands on national “best of” lists and has become a magnet for both talent and companies. While the resulting economic boom has improved several prosperity measures for Travis County residents—resulting in declining poverty rates, rising median household incomes, and lower unemployment rates—this prosperity has not been evenly shared. Structural and institutional barriers have contributed to significant disparities across ethnic and racial lines and poverty in the county continues to be concentrated east of Interstate 35. Furthermore, the area’s rapid growth has placed pressure on some of the region’s most sensitive environmental features and highlighted the challenges for its most vulnerable residents and businesses.
Travis County engaged TIP Strategies to create a holistic, community-driven economic development strategy focused on shared prosperity and sustainability. With support from The Collaboratory and McDaniel Strategy Ecosystems, TIP engaged more than 70 stakeholders and more than 1,000 residents in developing the County’s first economic development strategic plan. The resulting plan defined the County’s role in economic development in the Austin metro area and identified areas where County involvement had the greatest potential to influence outcomes without duplicating efforts. It provided a strategic framework for the County’s activities, with an emphasis on four areas: business development, economic and financial opportunity, placemaking, and transportation and mobility. Key themes that cut across these areas included collaboration, inclusivity, resiliency, and sustainability. The plan established mechanisms for strengthening partnerships across County departments and with organizations and institutions throughout the region. By linking and leveraging these partnerships and the various programs and initiatives, Travis County can strengthen its leadership position in regional economic development and deepen its impact.