Economist forecasts strong growth in 2013

Some business owners are cautiously optimistic

Austin can expect strong economic growth in 2013, according to local economist Angelos Angelou, and Southwest Austin will share in that prosperity.

The region is home to some of the economic drivers Angelou listed in the annual forecast he delivered in December to local business leaders.

Southwest Austin, a region Community Impact Newspaper defines as south of Southwest Parkway, west of I-35, north of FM 1626 and east of FM 1826, is home to two semiconductor companies and many small- to medium-sized businesses.

The principal executive officer for Angelou Economics predicted that 2013 would be a strong year for single-family and multifamily housing.

"I am forecasting a substantial shortage in single-family housing," Angelou said. "If you don't have a house, buy a house."

The region has not kept up with other areas of Austin, however in terms of attracting employers, Angelou told Community Impact Newspaper.

"Overall, there is no reason why the Southwest Austin region should not benefit from overall growth," he said.

He cautioned that a lack of new major employers may eventually become a constraint.

Business and technology

On Jan. 22, Southwest Austin's Advanced Micro Devices announced its fourth quarter 2012 results and commentary.

In his commentary, Chief Financial Officer Devinder Kumar wrote that AMD had made some key strategic investments—such as acquiring SeaMicro Inc.—designed to position the company for success in a changing computing landscape.

In part to return to profitability, AMD is restructuring and continues plans to reduce its workforce by 14 percent through the first quarter of 2013, he wrote. The company did not say where the reductions would occur.

AMD's Oak Hill facility employs roughly 2,000 people. The campus's main functions are engineering/product development, sales and marketing, finance, and general business administration.

The company has said it intends to sell its Oak Hill location to commercial investors and then lease it back.

"The goal of this exercise is to unlock the cash tied up in the campus itself and apply those funds to our business operations," company spokesman Michael Silverman said. "This is a pretty common practice."

Silverman said that AMD's new product announcements were well-received at the 2014 International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7–10.

Freescale Semiconductor completed the sale of part of its Ed Bluestein Boulevard campus in the fall. The company continues to operate its manufacturing facility south of the property, according to a news release from the entity buying the land.

Freescale employs approximately 5,000 people in Austin. Its core product groups include microcontrollers, digital networking, and radio frequency and analog mixed-signal technologies. It was scheduled to announce its fourth quarter financial results Jan. 29.

Small businesses and growth

In November, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent nationwide and 4.9 percent in the Greater Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Austin created 26,000 jobs in 2012, a 3.3 percent increase from 2011, Angelou said.

He said the top job growth sectors were construction, education, hospitality, health, leisure and professional services.

Angelou also said that retail employment remained somewhat flat citywide, posting 1,500 new jobs in 2012.

"That is still indicating that a lot of small businesses are struggling to survive," he said.

Some small businesses may still not have recovered to pre-recession levels, said Dave Porter, Austin Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of economic development.

"Probably now, [success] is not having to lay anybody off or eking out a profit," he said. "Our job creation has been more robust than in most other metropolitan areas."

Porter added that there is uncertainty about how the economy and federal government action will affect businesses.

"I think 2012 was a good year for job creation, and [Austin] has a decent chance to continue job recovery and growth [into 2013].

"That would certainly help small businesses," he said.