Real Estate Growth: Austin Vs. Phoenix

Austin Business Journal by Jan Buchholz, Staff Writer

Date: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 9:05am CDT

Staff Writer – Austin Business Journal
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Phoenix has its own version of the Hunger Games, and in its version the adversary is Austin.

At the heart of the story is a hunger for more. More real estate, more technology and more economic development.

The distance between Austin and Phoenix is about 1,100 miles and the topography couldn’t be more different. The Valley of the Sun is an endless expanse of flat rocky desert while Austin is verdant with trees and shrubs. Phoenix boasts about 4.5 million people, while the Austin metro area has a population somewhere in the vicinity of 1.8 million. Both are on the leading edge of growth in the Southwest.

The two cities emit a completely different vibe, and yet, there’s a commonality, I think, that will grow more pronounced in the months and years ahead. Both cities are vying for the same kinds of enterprises — particularly tech and renewable energy firms. They both love a good real estate development, too.

Right before I left the Phoenix Business Journal for my new gig here, Apple announced that it had picked Austin for it’s next expansion. Phoenix political and economic development folks were under the impression that they were the forerunner in that competition. But Phoenix and Arizona officials couldn’t pony up enough incentives quick enough to attract the Silicon Valley giant. Austin and the great state of Texas came through with the goods, and the powers-that-be in the desert were left hurting. Losing Apple — assuming Apple really considered Phoenix as a viable contender — stung big time. I haven’t been here long enough to tell whether Austinites have any feelings yea or nay about Phoenicians, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s no love lost from the Arizona perspective.

It will be interesting in the future to see to what extent Phoenix and Austin go head to head in the eco-devo games. I think it’s inevitable, given that both cities have strong workforces and plenty of land for expansion. Both are aggressive and hungry for entrepreneurs and big businesses alike. But from here on out, I’ll be rooting for Austin. After all, this is home now. I plan to stick around for a very long time.

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