Buda sets its sights on a corporate tech campus

Image description
Buda sets its sights on a corporate tech campus
Image description
Buda sets its sights on a corporate tech campus
With the decision of where the next Amazon.com Inc’s headquarters will be still up in the air, the city of Buda is looking for ways to attract other technology businesses.

Ann Miller, director of the Buda Economic Development Corp., announced in March that Buda would make three properties—Sunfield Development’s 210 acres in Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, HFH Investments’ three tracts of land that span both Buda and Austin, and the Heep Ranch Properties Ltd.’s parcels located north of Buda—more appealing for tech companies to take root.

“It has always been pointed out that these properties just north of [Buda] would be perfect for some type of corporate campus. With the [Amazon.com, Inc.] HQ2 project we really started to have the conversation of how we could make that happen and working with those property owners to really put together a plan.”

Miller said Sunfield’s housing and planned commercial developments create the ideal work, play and live environment for a tech company. A tech campus near HFH Investments provide views of downtown Austin and allow for construction along Onion Creek, and a tech campus on the The Heep Ranch Properties Ltd. parcels would create recreational activities such as kayaking and swimming because of Onion Creek.

BEDC members attended the VentureBeat’s Blueprint conference—an event hosted by an online technology news platform—to learn how cities like Buda can adapt to become more welcoming toward tech companies in March.

CEO of Austin Technology Council Barbary Brunner said because businesses are becoming so tech-enabled, cities have to be open to innovation if they want to attract or keep tech companies within their city limits.

“Everything from cultural amenities to affordable and accessible housing to fewer traffic problems aid access to high-quality technical talent,” Brunner said.

Buda’s future

Miller said she is aware of citizens’ desires to keep Buda’s small-town feel, which is why a lot of the large companies coming to Buda such as Baylor Scott & White Health and Ascension Seton are moving into the Sunfield MUD area instead of downtown Buda.

“We can keep the small-town feel but improve the economy by having this adjacent complex that brings people into town to spend money but not through town just to drive through,” Miller said.

According to Brunner, Austin has been a hub for small- to mid-sized technological enterprises for the last 30 years. However, size limitations of the city, a rapidly growing population, and the rising prices of commercial and residential properties have caused companies to consider the broader Austin metropolitan area to set up shop.

While Miller believes Buda has the potential to be on tech companies’ shortlist for future headquarters, she said there are certain features the city lacks.

“Public transportation is going to be key, especially if, let’s say, a big tech campus goes in north Buda or South Austin. Connecting that to everything is going to be really key,” Miller said. “Walkability, bikeability, housing diversification and creating an environment that allows that is [important]. I think Austin had that, but it has gotten too expensive for people who have much to lose if they start a business.”

Buda began working with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2016 to potentially establish a Park & Ride bus stop in Buda as part of the Capital Area Rural Transit System. Buda Public Information Officer David Marino said city staff would discuss funding a transit program during the upcoming budget workshops. Currently, the city has a senior transportation program called Seniors Taking a Ride, or STAR, that uses a federally funded handicap-accessible van.

Buda Mayor George Haehn said as the city continues to grow with more businesses and more people start to move in, there may be a stronger push for infrastructure and amenity projects to be completed faster.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Austin is going to want to connect with Buda,” Haehn said.  “Everyone is going to need housing. [Population growth] could possibly impact zoning decisions [in the future] and we’re going to place certain housing [developments]. I keep saying we need to find a way to diversify the housing, and [the growth] may put an impetus to actually have developers come and put in a diversity of housing.”

Over the next five to seven years, Miller said she expects to see a mixed-use development with a residential component as well as office, medical and retail space come to Buda. She said residents can also look forward to new recreation elements.

“Buda has invested a lot in bike trails and the city park, and with the new edition of Garrison Park, there is potential for kayaking and swimming activities,” Miller said. “Another thing that came up multiple times [during brainstorm meetings] is quality food options and unique food options. Buda has a little bit of that, but having unique food that is not chain and where people can go hang out with friends is important.”

Benefits of a tech campus

Brunner said cities looking to bring tech companies into their boundaries should focus less on startups and more on established companies making a profit.

“A company that is three or four years old, has 100 employees and
$15 million in venture funding—that’s no longer a startup. That is actually a small-enterprise company,” she said. “[People] are way too enthusiastic about startups, and we’re not nearly as enthusiastic enough about businesses that are actually producing jobs and revenue, which turns into a GDP [gross domestic product] and a tax base for the local economy.”

Producing jobs and increasing the local economy are some of Miller’s goals for recruiting a corporate campus to Buda.

“Google has figured it out that you don’t need a college degree to work as an IT specialist. They offer online training and partner with a bunch of other companies so that when you complete your online training you are contacted by 600 companies looking to hire that skill set,” she said. “It’s a way that we can take our existing workforce, upscale them, get them a better-quality job, improve their quality of life [and] raise the income for the area. But also if people do get college degrees, they have a company they can go work for and be an executive in and have advancement opportunities, and hopefully, they do it right in their backyard of Buda instead of commuting to Austin.”

Miller said the presence of a tech-based company could create other opportunities in fields like the medical industry, which the EDC is actively recruiting. This year, the EDC has successfully brought Baylor Scott & White, St. David’s HeatlthCare and Ascension Seton on board.

“There’s a big shift coming, and it’s all coming from technology. Our lives are getting more and more technology-based; even health care uses a lot more technology in it than it did in the past,” Miller said. “Like with the hospital project, a [tech campus] is going to generate a lot of spinoff, not only in retail. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone built a medical office space here and then got approached by someone who just wanted to put a [professional] office.”

As the BEDC and city continue to map out the future of Buda, Miller said the strategic planning process is underway and will be presented to the public in the fall.

“Ideally we are trying to make this a community where you can live, work and play, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

By Starlight Williams
Starlight Williams joined Community Impact Newspaper July 2017 after graduating Loyola University New Orleans. She spent her time covering city government, education and business news in the Buda and Kyle area. Starlight moved on from Community Impact July 2018.


Seniors from San Marcos High School paraded down McCarty Lane in San Marcos May 29. (Evelin Garcia/ Community Impact Newspaper)
GALLERY: Here’s how a parent-led parade honored San Marcos High School seniors

Thundering cheers echoed down McCarty Lane in San Marcos on May 29 as an army of high school seniors wearing caps and gowns paraded down the street on flashy rides.

The Central Texas Food Bank will host a food distribution event in Kyle on May 30. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Texas Food Bank distribution event in Kyle on May 30

Food bank expects more than 1,000 families at distribution

Volunteers load cars at a distribution event in South Austin on May 28. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six food distribution events scheduled by Central Texas Food Bank in June

Residents who face food insecurities can drive up with their vehicles for no-contact pickup.

(Courtesy Fotolia)
New school schedules and a road opening: Latest news from Central Texas

Read the latest news from Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the Central Texas area.

Miriam McCoy and Brenda Remme were lead donors for the new transitional housing project. (Courtesy Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center)
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center breaks ground on $4 million transitional housing project

After years of planning and preparation, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center’s transitional housing project broke ground virtually April 17.

A May 27 preliminary budget discussion showed Central Health expects to see a slow-down in property tax revenue growth in fiscal year 2020-21. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early budget forecasts from Central Health show anticipated 'slow-down' in tax revenue collection

Preliminary budget forecasts from Central Health show the health care district anticipates a slow down in tax revenue collection growth.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

Each eligible child will receive $285 in benefits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Some Texas students eligible for one-time federal benefit to aid with food purchases

Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits.

Here are the coronavirus updates to know today. (Community Impact staff)
Hays County nears 4,000 tests administered for coronavirus

Cases rise by 18 in Hays County on May 27

The new coffee shop is located at 817 Chestnut St., Ste. 221, San Marcos. (Courtesy Kahvie Lofts)
Kahvie Lofts coffee shop now open in San Marcos

The coffee shop features a menu inspired by a blend of different cultures with the intention to serve the best from everywhere, according to owner Sarah Nicotra.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke to members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on May 27 about what the state's post-pandemic economic turnaround might look like. (Screenshot of May 27 virtual luncheon)
Texas comptroller predicts slow, steady economic turnaround post-pandemic

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state entered the era of the coronavirus in a healthy financial situation, which bodes well for the future as reopening continues, but that Texans are not out of the woods yet.

Nursing facilities across Texas will be able to apply for federal funds to purchase devices to connect residents to friends and family. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces $3.6 million project to connect nursing home residents to families

Gov. Greg Abbott announced May 27 that $3.6 million will be provided to nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams and headphones to connect residents with family members.