Vision 2020: Austin sending a message of welcome

Published 7:01 am Sunday, September 18, 2016

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 Director

Whether you are hoping to grow a business, construct a new home, or simply to build a better life for you and your family, Austin is sending a message loud and clear: you are welcome here.  Thanks to several new initiatives recently passed or under consideration by the City Council, Austin is taking proactive steps to help our community prosper.

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The first initiative is an incentive program for businesses looking to invest in Austin and create quality jobs. At their last work session the Council unanimously supported a “Grow Austin” fund, which will build on several existing state programs and give Austin a leg up on the competition in attracting new investments and jobs.

Qualifying businesses will receive rebates in proportion to the amount of money they invest in capital improvements and the number of jobs they create.  The incentives will also be available to existing local businesses, to make sure that we are encouraging growth from within the community as well. Implementing a stand-out incentives package was a major goal of Vision 2020’s Business Friendly Environment committee, and we congratulate everyone who has worked hard to turn this idea into reality.

The second initiative, a tax abatement program for new housing developments, has been officially approved by the City Council, School Board, and County Board and is already making an impact. Local leaders recognized that something needed to be done to address our aging housing stock and the growing demand for affordable workforce housing, so developers will now be able to apply for a 5-year tax rebate to encourage the construction of new homes.

This is a win-win for everyone: the rebate could translate into tens of thousands of dollars in up-front savings for homeowners, while local governments will benefit from the increased property values well into the future. The Business Friendly Environment committee has spent a long time researching ways to build a stronger workforce in Austin, and being able to provide quality homes is a big help in attracting the best employees for our businesses, schools, clinics, and other organizations.

Finally, the third initiative will kick off with our community’s first annual “Welcoming Week.” As of July, Austin is officially a member of Welcoming America, a national organization that provides resources and helps communities raise awareness about the benefits of diversity and inclusion.  Austin is continuing to see more newcomers from all kinds of backgrounds, and this infusion of diversity is an incredible opportunity for our community to learn and grow together. As the Daily Herald recently reported, events and activities will be going on all week and I hope everyone will be able to get out and take part.

We are constantly seeing new teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, young families, and many others move into our neighborhoods, and they all deserve to feel at home in Austin and have access to the same opportunities that everyone else enjoys. The Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit committee’s overarching goal is to improve the quality of life and increase opportunities for all citizens, and we couldn’t be prouder of the efforts our fellow Austinites are making to help everyone feel welcome and included here.

When you put all of these things together, you can sense a real shift in the outlook for Austin’s future.  We aren’t sitting back and waiting for outside events to dictate our actions. We are reaching out, making investments, and actively building the kind of community we want to be.  It’s an exciting time to be in Austin, and thanks to our collective efforts we can all look forward to many new opportunities ahead.