Austin City Limits

Austin is not for everyone, but nearly everyone loves Austin from afar. As the world transitions in this ’gap year,’ Austin is doing better than most places in its response to Covid-19. While Austin’s most significant gaps are its lack of cultural diversity (outside UT) and scant public transportation, it shines with a hip, independent label only comparable to tech metros like San Francisco and Seattle.

Driven mainly by entrepreneurs and artists, Austin looks like a big winner in the race to establish a New Normal. Tim Ferriss of The 4-hour Workweek fame moved here for reasons not much different from mine: Link

Hospitality guru Chip Conley moved here to help a new business grow. Elon Musk will be here once Austin gets the incentives right. It’s exciting to see Austin grow as a tech hub.

At the same time, Austin risks losing its independent edge. The torch barely flickers for Barbara Jordan, Willie Nelson, Sandra Bullock, Mollie Ivins, Steve Ray Vaughan, and so on. Most are gone, and I don’t see new spirits taking their place. Covid-19 is convenient for many tech entrepreneurs but wreaked havoc on artists and musicians.

I hear San Francisco has lost its savoir-faire and its beacons of cultural life. Seattle is struggling between runaway prosperity and taking responsibility for those falling through the cracks. The effort there appears more significant than in San Francisco, where an emerging class of entrepreneurs looks less committed to bridging social gaps and more obsessed with instant gratification. Covid-19 will knock some folks off their feet and make them less tone-deaf.

Despite all its charms, Austin is on the cusp of becoming another San Francisco — stuck catering to a tech class only. Another city nestled between San Francisco and Seattle might offer a middle path with creative outlets, a vibrant economy, and a socially conscious population. In the race towards normalcy, could Portland stay weirder? Will it end up making a better barbecue than Austin and attracting more tech refugees from San Francisco and Seattle? Link

The next decade belongs to these cities. My bet is on Austin.