State of the city is strong, mayor says

February 3, 2010

Austin doing better than other big cities during recession, Leffingwell says.

By Sarah Coppola
Austin American-Statesman Staff

Austin is faring better than other big cities and is poised to emerge strong from the recession, Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in his annual State of the City address Tuesday.

"Austin is full of smart, driven people who make things happen," he told 420 people at a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. "For that reason … even during this monumentally difficult moment in history, the state of our city is strong."

Leffingwell rattled off several No. 1 rankings the city has achieved and said Austin has lost fewer jobs and had a more stable real estate market than other cities. He noted that an incentives package the council just passed with Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc. will bring more jobs to town and said that council members will consider another economic deal in the coming weeks with California-based LegalZoom.

Austin needs to diversify its economy by growing jobs in the fields of tourism, renewable energy and creative media, he said, adding that he hopes to bring a major social media company such as Twitter to Austin. He also said he will hold a summit on small businesses next month.

Leffingwell touted the council’s 4-3 vote last year to build a new water treatment plant. And he said he will support a plan to increase Austin’s reliance on renewable energy if the plan is flexible enough to be changed if energy needs and technologies change. And, to combat traffic congestion, he said he still intends to hold a transportation bond election this November that will include bike, pedestrian, road and urban rail projects.

The sometimes-stern mayor peppered the speech with self-deprecating remarks and tried to keep the mood light.

"We all know that the reason I’m such a popular keynote speaker is my intense personal charisma and my dynamic and inspiring oratory," he joked. "So in case you find yourself overcome with emotion during my speech, please, don’t be embarrassed to weep openly."

scoppola(at); 912-2939

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