Austin weekly roundup: Samsung and city of Austin try to negotiate a deal, vaccine updates and more

Samsung is in negotiations with the city of Austin for a potential record tax incentive deal. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Samsung is in negotiations with the city of Austin for a potential record tax incentive deal. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Samsung is in negotiations with the city of Austin for a potential record tax incentive deal. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Good morning, Austin.

It’s hard to wrap your head around a number like $17 billion. That’s more than twice the amount of Project Connect, the massive public transportation expansion project underway in Austin, and it’s nearly 17 times Tesla’s planned investment in its gigafactory. It’s a number most of us can’t fathom—with the exception of our new Texan neighbor, Elon Musk.

But $17 billion is what Samsung could invest in Austin to build a new chipmaking plant, according to reporting from Christopher Neely, with the majority of that investment—$11 billion—coming in the form of complex machinery and equipment needed for the new plant.

In exchange for that record investment, and the nearly 2,000, mostly high-paying jobs that would come with it, Samsung wants a 100% property tax reimbursement from the city for more than 20 years. The tech giant also appears set to ask for incentives from Travis County.

Austin continues to be a magnet for tech investment, which is helping the region economically, but local governments are asking themselves how they should best approach these incentive deals. Austin revamped its economic incentives policy in 2018 and Travis County is in the midst of rewriting its rules, a process that should finish by the end of the year. Leaders have to weigh standing out in a competitive national landscape with getting the most benefit for their local residents. It’s a delicate balance.


—Jack Flagler, editor, Central Austin and Southwest Austin/Dripping Springs editions

Here’s what else is going on this week:

Vaccine distribution remains limited, but another federal approval could be on the horizon

Austinites eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine continue to experience what Council Member Ann Kitchen called “anxiety, confusion and a sense of unfairness” as limited supply has led to growing feelings of frustration.

As of this week, Travis County has been allocated 150,550 vaccine doses from the state, only enough to cover a fraction of its population of 1.06 million eligible residents, according to reporting from Olivia Aldridge.

“There’s a sense that there’s a lottery system right now,” Kitchen said on Tuesday.

While the registration system from Austin Public Health is not a lottery, it is first-come, first-served for eligible Texans, which means slots fill up fast because there are more people looking to be vaccinated than appointments available.

While the county is working to improve its portal from a tech aspect, there may be some good news on the way when it comes to supply. A new, single-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson along with Janssen Pharmaceuticals intends to file for U.S. Emergency Use Authorization with the Food & Drug Administration in early February. The EUA process is the same one that Moderna and Pfizer went through to get their vaccines into circulation.

More news to know: