The countdown: Top local news stories of 2013 (No. 20-11)Published 9:20am Monday, December 30, 2013
(19 TIE) Business shuffle: Some businesses close (Pizza Hut, Gymocha, Oriental Express) but many more open (Jimmy John’s, Barley’s, Sassy Strawberry, Dusty’s, Enchantertainment, Electric Lair, Mayas Taquerias)
The business community witnessed myriad changes in 2013, but it’s safe to say the local economy has ended the year with a net gain.
Some well-known businesses shuttered for good this year, including A&W All-American Food (which had been here for 75 years), Gymocha, Pizza Hut and Ooh La La!, but many more opened or announced they would soon. That list includes home improvement store Runnings, Jimmy John’s, yogurt shop Sassy Strawberry, Dusty’s Bar, Enchantertainment, The Electric Lair, Sun Tan City, AT&T retailer Pro Cellular, and Snap Fitness. Others that closed were immediately replaced, like Oriental Express, which was replaced by Maya’s Taquerias & Restaurant, Olivia’s, which was replaced by Barley’s Family Restaurant, Watt’s Cookin’ will stay open under new ownership, and Johnson Floral is transforming from a floral shop to a food co-op. And possibly biggest of all, Bellisio Foods bought Austin Packaging and prevented the loss of about 75 jobs.
Hormel Foods also added 88 Austin jobs in 2013, Hy-Vee Foods announced a $7-$10-million expansion, and the Austin hospital completed its $28-million expansion.
And while Austin still suffers from underemployment (mainly part-time workers who would rather work full-time, or others in lower-wage jobs), its unemployment rate hit a seven-year low, at 3.7 percent in November.
The housing market also appears to be recovering, with homes selling much quicker and at a higher price over 2012.