2017 Austin Chamber Annual Report

2017 Austin Chamber Annual Report

Posted By Greater Austin Chamber | Feb 06, 2018
Chamber, Membership Print Article 2017 Austin Chamber Annual Report

For 140 years, we have supported quality education, affordability for all, effective transportation options, smart policies that spur economic development, and everything in between to protect the people and city that we love.

Our progress has been steadfast. Founded as the Austin Board of Trade in 1877, we have happily rolled up our sleeves to tackle the biggest concerns facing the Central Texas region by working alongside the community, federal, state, and local officials on issues that matter the most.

Today, the collective voice and work of our partners have ranked Austin as the “No. 1 Best Place to Live in the USA” by U.S. News and World Report; as one of the “Best Cities for Job Seekers” by Indeed; and as one of only four U.S. metros “achieving inclusive economic growth” by the Brookings Institution.

Austin proved to be a forward-thinking metro in 2017 by growing its life sciences industry through the Dell Medical School and Capital City Innovation as a community vision to improve the lives of Central Texans. The development landed global pharmaceutical company Merck’s decision to make Austin the location of its fourth innovation hub to focus on preventative healthcare and data collection.

As we look towards 2018, it is our hope to continue the dialogue on innovative solutions that shape the Central Texas region.  



Since our creation, we have provided our members with effective advocacy and leadership on innovative solutions that shape the Central Texas region. Our daily interactions at the local, federal, and state levels continue to make a difference in the community and businesses we serve.  

  • We partnered with Texas Speaker Joe Straus and Texas businesses to defeat the discriminatory bathroom bill. If passed, Texas would lose nearly $5.6 billion. Due to our efforts, Speaker Straus announced his plan to create a Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness to improve Texas’ economy.
  • Texas Governor Abbott supported our efforts to grow the Texas economy by replenishing the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) during the 85th Legislature. $100 million was allocated to the Governor’s University Research Initiative, the Moving Image Incentive Program, TEF, and three other incentive programs on an as-needed basis. The Austin Chamber joined the Texas Association of Business Texas 2050 Group—a 30 member business organization—to support TEF and oppose legislation that would weaken existing incentives that spur economic development.
  • We worked with Texas Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Donna Howard to pass legislation that allows Austin Community College to create a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Each year, Central Texas experiences an occupational shortage of registered nurses.
  • We supported Texas Speaker Straus and the Texas Legislature on finding ways to reduce the state reliance on Central Texas property taxes through the Robin Hood Fund. Speaker Straus named Nicole Conley Johnson to the Commission on Public School Finance
  • With our help, the Austin and Leander ISD bonds passed with 70 percent and 66 percent of voters respectively supporting the measures. A longtime priority of the Chamber, the Austin ISD bond allowed the school district to adopt its first Master Facility Plan.
  • Our board of directors endorsed the Travis County Bond to support two propositions that improve drainage, roads, and parks in the Central Texas region. Voters approved the $185 million bond package in November.

Texas Representative Donna Howard participates in our first-ever Hour of Code event held at the Texas Capitol. More than 50 Austin students participated in the event to gain knowledge of coding and technology.


Community Relations

Regardless of the month or time of the year, the Austin Chamber is committed to improving our community. This year, we celebrated the power and benefits of doing good in our neighborhoods.

  • We put in over 12 hours of hard work to paint the home and a newly installed deck of a local senior couple. The project was in partnership with Interfaith Action of Central Texas and the Unity Church of Hills.
  • Our employee committee raised more than $1,030 to add Christmas cheer to the lives of two local families. 2017 marked the third year we partnered with Operation Blue Santa.
  • We donated over 1,010 cans or 709 meals for Central Texas families in need during our Red, White, and Food Challenge. The campaign was in partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank.
  • Our Austin Gives Mixers generated 400 attendees this year. The program recognizes businesses that make a pledge to give back to the Austin community. Our Annual Awards Luncheon celebrated more than 500 businesses and recognized 12 finalists and 4 winners of the Generous Business Award. More than 550 partners attended the event to hear guest speaker Kendra Scott.
  • 530 businesses participate in our Autin Gives program by donating one percent or more of their pre-tax earnings to the local community. 
  • Austin Gives partnered with Austin Monthly to provide $735 and collect over 200 toys for local families during the holidays.
  • Our Greater Austin Business Award program generated over 550 attendees and more than 65 nominations. The annual event recognizes businesses for their achievements and community contributions.
  • We spoke on the importance of doing good in the community at the National Chamber of Commerce Conference in Nashville, TN.

Austin Chamber staff poses for a photo with members of the Unity Church of the Hills prior to painting the home of local couple Gregorio and Maria.


The Austin economy continues to grow stronger and it’s partially due to our economic growth and talent efforts. This year, we continued to focus on ways that ensure Austin remains a great place to work, live, and play.

  • With substantial support from our team, MERCK selects Austin as the location for its fourth global IT Center. Over 10 years, the company plans to create 600 new jobs with an average annual wage of $84,586 and invest nearly $29 million in the region. The $856,000 incentive deal was the City of Austin’s first economic development agreement in over three years.
  • We announced Opportunity Austin 4.0 campaign designed to continue our success by supporting job creation, employability, and economic advancement for all (2019-2023). The program plans to raise $30 million by December 2018.
  • We generated some impressive rankings over the year including:
  • We conducted 288 out-of-market visits, hosted 132 prospect visits to the region, and realized 51 newly located operations creating 2,960 jobs, as well as 87 expansions resulting in 10,212 new jobs.
  • Our collaboration with businesses resulted in 30,000 net new nonfarm jobs$1.6 billion impact to payrolls in the region. The 2.9 percent job growth made Austin the 6th fastest growing metro job market.

Charisse Bodisch (l back row) of the Austin Chamber along with Aaron Demerson of the Texas Workforce Commission, Kwee Lan Teo of the Austin Chamber, Ruth R. Hughs of the Texas Workforce Commission, pose for a photo at the Charles Schwab Topping Off-Event with Dennis Howard, Charles Schwab EVP/CIO, Mayor Steve Adler, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and Walter Bettinger II, Charles Schwab President/CEO.


At the Austin Chamber, we believe that all residents—young and old—have the right to access and receive a quality education.  This year, we defended this belief by supporting a strong education system in the region that prepares students and workers for college and the workforce.

  • Through our DTC70 program, the Lumina Foundation recognized Austin as a national Talent Hub and provided a $350,000 grant to help 70,000 stop outs—individuals with some college but no degree or credential—reach their educational goals. The effort is in partnership with Austin Community College and Western Governors University.
  • 200,000 students were educated on the importance of college and career readiness through our DTC70 partners Austin, Hutto, Leander, Pflugerville, and Round Rock Independent School Districts.
  • Our “Summer Melt” program helped 9,000 high school graduates enroll into college. Each year the program invests $70,000 to ensure school districts intervene and reduce common barriers that students may experience while enrolling to college.  
  • Through our DTC70 program, 65 percent of high school seniors in the Class of 2016 enrolled into college—up one percentage point compared to the senior Class of 2015 at 64 percent—the State of Texas college enrollment rate remains at 49 percent.
  • FAFSA submissions for the Class of 2017 topped the state at 70 percent during Q4 submissions—10 percentage points higher than the Class of 2016.
  • We increased college and career readiness rates from 56 percent in 2016 to 58 percent in 2017. DTC70 partners are 19 percentage points above the State’s college-readiness average of 38 percent for the Class of 2016.

Ellen Wood, 2017 Chair of the Austin Chamber, joins members and staff for a press conference in support of Austin ISD proposed bond.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Austin as fifth overall and first for talent according to their innovation that matters study expanding the health of startup communities across the U.S.  This year, we continued to focus on attracting and increasing capital to grow the region’s innovation ecosystem.

  • Due to our efforts, venture capitalists invested $734 million in the Austin economy. 
  • We helped close 116 venture capital deals. The average funding per each deal was $6.3 million.

*data is based off Q1-Q3 data from 2017*

A-List winners take an onstage photos. The winners are recognized as the hottest startups in the Central Texas region.


Over 74 percent of Austin voters consider the Austin Chamber a credible organization compared to various local entities. For more than a century we have focused on sharing our story and history with the community we serve. This year was no different. We focused on creating engaging content that promotes our brand worldwide.

  • Our storytelling abilities won 1st place for the best social media campaigns and 1st place for our website by the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executive (TCCE) Media Awards.
  • 3,000 followers joined our Twitter page—growing our reach to more than 32,000 followers. Our Facebook page has 6,200 followers and our Instagram page has 1K followers, and our LinkedIn page has 5,280 followers. 
  • Our content is viewed globally and generates more than 700K views annually through our website. Our blog receives over 70K views. 

Texas Chamber of Commerce Executive (TCCE) first place media awards that the Austin Chamber MarCom team won for best website and social media content.


From ribbon cutting and  galas to committee meetings, you can say that the Austin Chamber knows how to party. This year, we enjoyed creating memorable experiences for our partners.  

  • We hosted 36 events that engaged more than 7,000 attendees.
  • New events of the year included Power Up Austin!, Pulse on Policy, and Chairman's Lunch

Our partners partake in camaraderie and enjoy a cold one while attending a Chamber membership event.



For the past 10 years, we have advocated for the need of all modes of transportation for residents throughout the region. This year, we did not just meet our goals, but exceeded them in terms of mobility.

  • Our Air Service Task Force helps the ABIA add new non-stop flightsa total of 70—through domestic and international flights to Canada, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Frankfurt. ABIA now ranks 29th in the U.S. with the most air travelers —18 spots ahead of San Antonio.
  • Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) unanimously adopts new selection criteria supported by the Chamber to ensure better collaboration on transportation projects in the Central Texas region. The criterion is part of CAMPO’s 2040 Transportation Plan.
  •  We support the formation of Texans for Traffic Relief—a nonprofit working on behalf of businesses to advocate for common sense solutions that alleviate congestion—to counteract the Tea Party’s opposition to new road tolls.
  • We supported the completion of MoPac North to significantly relieve congestion in Central Texas. Transportation is the second highest cost amongst families in the Austin region. 

Pictured (from left to right): Anders Lindström, Director of Communications, Norwegian; Jim Smith, Executive Director, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Tom Noonam, President/CEO of Visit Austin; Doug Driskill, Chair of Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Airport Task Force; and District 6 Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. 


Austin is considered one of America’s fastest-growing cities for good reason—job availability. Unemployment in November dropped to 2.6 percent and per capita income increased by 3.2 percent. This year, we have been at the forefront advocating for more jobs on behalf of Central Texans.

  • Workforce Solutions Capital Area adopted their first regional workforce plan—a long time goal of the Austin Chamber—to certify, train, and place 1,800 residents in poverty into high paying jobs.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives included our vision and language into the Forever GI Bill to help prepare veterans for the ever-changing job market by expanding access to technology courses such as coding. 

Kwee Lan Teo (center) of the Austin Chamber, Mojdeh Gharbi of Certain Affinity, and Dan Medlin of ARM speak to U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith regarding the importance of education and the workforce. The meeting was in partnership with the Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU).

Greater Austin Chamber

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas. Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for members.