“Welcome to Austin, but please don’t move here.” It’s a catchphrase worn on the t-shirts of locals and inspired by the 150 people that move to the city every day. Spurred on by the University of Texas, which stretches across half of the downtown core, the city also offers a built-in platform for tech and medical meetings.
“Tech companies see us as a great incubator,” says Steve Genovesi, senior VP of sales and services for the Austin CVB. “The university is a great source of employment and a new medical school will also be a great source for testing out medical products—the tech industry is embracing that as well.”
Genovesi refers to the university’s Dell Medical School, whose three buildings will weave seamlessly into the city’s burgeoning downtown medical district once opening in 2016. The overarching ambition of the school is to forge a health “ecosystem” with a creative, design-based approach to health care that integrates the medical school—its 600,000 sf of space dedicated to innovation education, care and research—and College of Fine Arts. The school is expected to be a magnet for a broad range of innovators—from entrepreneurial start-ups to interdisciplinary teams seeking collaboration and access to health systems where they can quickly test approaches and inventions. Demonstration clinics, mobile workshops and integrating smart technology into clinical projects are also in the works.
“It’s been 50 years since we’ve seen a public medical school open,” Genovesi says, mentioning with some excitement that much of Austin’s tech company repertoire didn’t exist three years ago. The school has also already piqued the interest of medical groups.
New Meeting Venues
Austin’s progressive vibe is also drawing in a flurry of new hotel development, with over 3,000 new rooms opening up the downtown area to larger convention groups over the next two years—36,000 rooms citywide. Included in this mix is the 319-room Hotel Van Zandt, a 16-story Kimpton property, 366-room Westin Austin Downtown, 414-room Starwood tower with luxe Aloft and Element hotels, 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin, offering the biggest hotel ballroom in the city, and 1,068-room Fairmont Austin, possessing the city’s highest room count.
Just two blocks from the convention center on Rainey Street, groups will find an entirely different reason to visit the city.
“A female entrepreneur converted a bungalow house into a restaurant,” Genovesi says. “Now you have bars and cocktail lounges, and food truck trailers have become brick and mortar restaurants. There’s a bar made of shipping containers and a place that makes their own sausage with outdoor picnic tables.”