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As AI evolves, more companies turning to chatbots 

For modern companies, one of the key challenges is figuring out how to become “omnichannels” -- or operations where all services (online, phone, brick and mortar) are seamlessly integrated together. An important step toward that integration is using chatbots, says Joseph Falcone, medical digital solutions lead at pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb.  Falcone -- who was in...


Check out Google’s new downtown Austin offices 

Check out Google’s new downtown Austin offices 

Three cityview terraces. Gourmet cafeterias that serve complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner. A “speakeasy” secret hangout with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a bar, couches and a piano.  Welcome to Google’s new downtown Austin offices. The 300,000-square foot space currently holds more than 450 employees. Two additional floors are under construction and are expected to open...
Central Texas home sales edge higher in August

Central Texas home sales edge higher in August

Central Texas home sales were up slightly in August year-over-year, and the median home-sale price rose 4 percent to $300,000, the Austin Board of Realtors said Tuesday. Some local real estate agents say the market has cooled some, but they say demand remains strong. The board said 2,994 houses changed hands in August, a 1 percent increase over August 2016. Half of the houses last month sold for more...
Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Equifax was hacked almost five months before the Atlanta-based company publicly disclosed the breach that may have compromised the personal data, including social security numbers and credit card information, of 143 million Americans, according to Bloomberg. The credit reporting agency learned about the breach five months earlier in March, Bloomberg reported, citing three sources familiar with...
Austin ad agency lands $13 million Texas Tourism account

Austin ad agency lands $13 million Texas Tourism account

An Austin advertising agency is taking over marketing responsibilities for Texas Tourism, the state’s Economic Development and Tourism division. Proof Advertising said Monday it had secured the account, which has a budget of $13 million for fiscal 2018. That’s down significantly from the $34 million the state budgeted in fiscal 2017. “We’ve had a lot of travel clients over...
Target store near UT campus sets opening date, begins hiring

Target store near UT campus sets opening date, begins hiring

Target has started hiring for its new location near the University of Texas campus. The retailer will hold two job fairs this month to fill 55 positions at the small-scale store that will open Nov. 8 in the Dobie Twenty21 development at 2021 Guadalupe St. The store had initially been set to open in July, but has been delayed. The job fairs will take place this Thursday and Sept. 29 from 11 a.m. to...
Equifax victims may face another hassle in buying an iPhone

Equifax victims may face another hassle in buying an iPhone

Apple fans who froze their credit after the Equifax data breach may end up with another hassle on their hands if they try to get one of the new iPhones that can cost more than $1,000. People who did so and want to make any big purchase may find the same. Since Equifax disclosed that 143 million Americans had their Social Security numbers and other personal data hacked, experts have encouraged people...

Asian businesses mull tech solutions to fight modern slavery

Asia Pacific business leaders are working on recommendations to protect migrant workers from modern-day slavery and to ensure companies’ supply sources are free from such unethical employment, according to Australia’s ambassador for people smuggling and human trafficking. One idea might be to create a regional website that rates employment recruiters — something already being done...
TMZ’s Levin visits celebs in their homes for new series

TMZ’s Levin visits celebs in their homes for new series

Harvey Levin likes to keep a secret — at least when it involves him — so you’ll have to watch his new Fox News Channel series to find out which celebrity keeps a rock as a precious memento. The founder of the TMZ celebrity website is the creator and host of “Objectified.” The program features celebrities showing off personal memorabilia in their homes. Levin tested the...
Self-driving boats: The next tech transportation race

Self-driving boats: The next tech transportation race

Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years — but autonomous boats could be just around the pier. Spurred in part by the car industry’s race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the...
Business week in review

Business week in review

DEVELOPMENT 2 new state buildings planned: Construction is set to get under way later this month on a decades-in-the-making project to build new state office buildings, parking garages and a pedestrian-friendly green space along Congress Avenue north of the Capitol between 15th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A commemorative groundbreaking for the $580 million initial phase of the state...
CodeNext opens options for garage apartments, but finances a hurdle

CodeNext opens options for garage apartments, but finances a hurdle

Thirteen years after moving into her three-bedroom home, Valerie Kanak Poynor moved into a new house — one in her own backyard. “At that time I was single, so it made no sense for me to own a three-bedroom house,” Poynor said. “But I couldn’t really afford to move.” She did some research on garage apartments and backyard cottages and decided to build one. It took...
Tight labor market, especially in tech, weighs down Austin’s job growth

Tight labor market, especially in tech, weighs down Austin’s job growth

The Austin high-tech job market keeps soaking up all the talent it can find, but even the largest sponges reach their saturation point. While a recent report shows local demand for programming and other high-tech workers has remained at some of the highest levels in the nation, the metro area’s tight labor market and its dependence on outside talent to fill many of its jobs has slowed job growth...

Business digest: Trump appoints UT professor to administration post

ECONOMY President Trump appoints UT professor to key administration post A Central Texan has been appointed to a key role in the White House by President Donald Trump. Richard Burkhauser, an adjunct professor in the Department of Economics and a senior research fellow in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, was named a member of the Council of Economic Advisors on Friday. His...

President Trump appoints UT professor to key administration post

A Central Texan has been appointed to a key role in the White House by President Donald Trump. Richard Burkhauser, an adjunct professor in the Department of Economics and a senior research fellow in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, was named a member of the Council of Economic Advisors on Friday. His professional career, according to a White House news release, “has...
Domain Northside retailer closes its doors

Domain Northside retailer closes its doors

Pirch has closed at Domain Northside just six months after the store opened its doors. The high-end kitchen retailer is retrenching, according to the Bloomberg news service, and more locations will close soon, including ones in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Paramus, N.J. Only locations in California are expected to remain open. “Pirch has made the strategic decision to refocus its footprint...
Austin-area jobless rate jumps in August as local employers cut jobs

Austin-area jobless rate jumps in August as local employers cut jobs

Austin-area employers cut jobs in August for the first time since at least 2000, sending the local unemployment rate higher, according to preliminary data from the Texas Workforce Commission. The metro-area jobless rate rose to 3.4 percent in August from 3.2 percent the prior month, the first time Austin’s unemployment rose in an August since 2008, according to the commission. The increase appeared...
Florida car dealer under fire for parking vehicles in public garages to avoid Irma

Florida car dealer under fire for parking vehicles in public garages to avoid Irma

Florida car dealer Ed Napleton on Tuesday defended his company’s decision to park its new cars at public parking garages in West Palm Beach and at a garage at Florida State University before Hurricane Irma’s arrival. The part-time Ocean Ridge resident said in an interview that he made arrangements with both CityPlace garage and FSU to pay to park his dealership cars at the properties....
Did last night’s ‘South Park’ give your Alexa a potty mouth? You’re not alone

Did last night’s ‘South Park’ give your Alexa a potty mouth? You’re not alone

“South Park” returned for its 21st(!) season premiere Wednesday night, carrying on creators Trey Stone’s and Matt Parker’s irreverent skewering of American culture.  But Wednesday night’s episode, featuring a storyline about automation and Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Home devices, caused real-life Alexa and Google Home devices to go off all across...

Business digest: Austin gas prices come back down

TRANSPORTATION After post-Harvey spike, Austin gas prices come back down Following an upward spike after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, gas prices across the state are starting to come back down, according to AAA Texas. The average cost of a gallon of gas in the Austin metro area this week is $2.55, down from $2.57 a week ago. The statewide average is $2.52, two cents less than last week. Gas...
Austin alcohol sales jump 10 percent in July

Austin alcohol sales jump 10 percent in July

Alcohol sales at Austin bars, restaurants and hotels jumped 10 percent in July, according to an American-Statesman analysis of state data. Bartenders citywide poured $62.5 million worth of booze, up from $56.9 million in July 2016. Across Texas, bar tabs totaled $581.8 million, a 12 percent increase. The business that sold the most beer, wine and mixed drinks statewide was the JW Marriott San Antonio...
INSIGHT: How Hurricane Irma shows consumer fleecing is the new normal

INSIGHT: How Hurricane Irma shows consumer fleecing is the new normal

Since Hurricane Irma put Florida in its sights, there have been thousands of reports of price gouging on everything from water to gasoline. The most notable complaint was not, however, the one alleging a $72 charge for a six-pack of water. Rather, it was the $3,200 reportedly asked by Delta for a ticket out of Florida. That’s because it wasn’t actually hurricane-related price gouging....
After post-Harvey spike, Austin gas prices starting to come back down

After post-Harvey spike, Austin gas prices starting to come back down

Following an upward spike after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, gas prices across the state are starting to come back down, according to AAA Texas. The average cost of a gallon of gas in the Austin metro area this week is $2.55, down from $2.57 a week ago. The statewide average is $2.52, two cents less than last week. Gas is cheapest in Amarillo, coming in at $2.36 per gallon, AAA says. It&rsquo...
PayPal co-founder: Talent, not technology, key to VC investing

PayPal co-founder: Talent, not technology, key to VC investing

The most critical ingredient for a successful startup is a talented entrepreneur at the helm, venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek told Austin technology professionals Wednesday. “It’s the mistake of putting the technology first instead of the person that has led me to my worst (investment) mistakes,” said Nosek, who helped start PayPal nearly two decades ago with...
My week as a part of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk army

My week as a part of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk army

Mark Zuckerberg was being interviewed about the early days of Facebook, and I — metaphorically speaking — had my ear to the door, listening to every word. I don’t know where this interview took place, when it happened, or how it got into the hands of a company called Speechpad. That didn’t really matter. My job at the moment was to transcribe every word of this interview...
Tasty Authentic Mexico and windy Ice Ball

Tasty Authentic Mexico and windy Ice Ball

It is good to be reminded that  Authentic Mexico started out with food and the people who make it. From the beginning, this benefit for the Hispanic Alliance has presented interior Mexican cuisine cooked up by top international chefs as well as local leaders. It has always included an informative program about the Alliance’s mission to transform...
2 new buildings will add 1 million square feet to Capitol complex

2 new buildings will add 1 million square feet to Capitol complex

Construction is set to get under way later this month on a decades-in-the-making project to build new state office buildings, parking garages and a pedestrian-friendly green space along Congress Avenue north of the Capitol between 15th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A commemorative groundbreaking for the $580 million initial phase of the state complex has tentatively been scheduled for...

Business digest: Austin’s Kestra Financial adds Michigan firm

ACQUISITIONS Austin’s Kestra Financial adds Michigan firm Kestra Financial Inc. on Tuesday said it has acquired a small wealth-management firm in Michigan. Kestra, an Austin firm that provides a financial advisory platform for a network of 1,700 independent professionals, said it added Rinvelt & David LLC, a four-person firm based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Rinvelt & David manages about $275 million...
Commentary: Before Austin offers tax incentives, let’s see if they work

Commentary: Before Austin offers tax incentives, let’s see if they work

The current Austin mayor and City Council have largely avoided the big tax incentive battles of their predecessors. However, now they are signaling that they are ready to start giving tax incentives to compete for Amazon to create a new headquarters here, employing up to 50,000 people in high-paying $100,000-average-paying jobs. I don’t see enough questioning by our leaders of whether our local...
INSIGHT: Is the new iPhone designed for cybersafety?

INSIGHT: Is the new iPhone designed for cybersafety?

As eager customers meet the new iPhone, they’ll explore the latest installment in Apple’s decade-long drive to make sleeker and sexier phones. But to me as a scholar of cybersecurity, these revolutionary innovations have not come without compromises. Early iPhones literally put the “smart” in the smartphone, connecting texting, internet connectivity and telephone capabilities...
Top Local Business Stories of the Week

Top Local Business Stories of the Week

CHASING AMAZON Austin says it will make a bid for “Amazon HQ2”: Internet giant Amazon.com is in the market for a location for a second headquarters that it plans to build away from its Seattle hometown, and Austin economic development leaders say they want to lure it to Central Texas. Mike Rollins, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, told the American-Statesman...
Harvey shakes up Houston’s real estate market

Harvey shakes up Houston’s real estate market

Houston area Realtor Shad Bogany had five closings scheduled for the week of Aug. 28. And then Hurricane Harvey happened, drowning Houston with 51 inches of rain and paralyzing the city for nearly a week. All of those closings were put on pause, Bogany said, and he expects some of those deals will never happen. “A lot of Realtors are probably having a loss of income,” Bogany said. &ldquo...
Dallas Fed: Region’s economy sustained momentum prior to Harvey

Dallas Fed: Region’s economy sustained momentum prior to Harvey

A rebound in retail sales and broad-based demand for a wide range of products and services helped sustain a growing regional economy prior to Hurricane Harvey’s arrival, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. However, some of the report’s weakest notes emerged from areas later hammered by the storm, which shut down key supply and transportation channels...
How much data did UT fans use Saturday? 3.9 million selfies worth

How much data did UT fans use Saturday? 3.9 million selfies worth

Saturday’s Texas-Maryland game was painful to watch. So painful, in fact, that many fans appear to have buried their faces in their phones. Figures from AT&T show customers at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium used more than 1.3 terabytes of data – enough to rank among the weekend’s top five games. In case you’re wondering – and you totally were &ndash...
H-E-B’s CEO gives $5 million to J.J. Watt’s Harvey recovery fund

H-E-B’s CEO gives $5 million to J.J. Watt’s Harvey recovery fund

Houston Texan J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey relief fund got a big boost Wednesday from H-E-B. Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of the San Antonio-based grocer, gave $5 million, bumping the total raised so far to more than $27 million. Watt’s initial goal was a modest $200,000. The contribution is just one of many ways H-E-B has stepped up to help communities across the state impacted by Harvey...
This map shows the richest person in each state

This map shows the richest person in each state

Do you know who the richest person in Texas is? This map makes it real easy to find out.  It might not, however, be one of the many billionaires in the state you’re thinking of.  Alice Walton, the heiress to the Walmart fortune is the richest person in Texas. She is worth more than $38 billion.  The map, which is color-coded to distinguish between whether the money was inherited...
Texas gas lines disappear as fears of shortage ebb

Texas gas lines disappear as fears of shortage ebb

Long lines for gasoline in Austin and elsewhere in the state have dissipated for the most part along with the short-lived, social media-fueled frenzy over fears of a severe shortage. Motorists remain more likely than before Hurricane Harvey hit to encounter the occasional empty filling stations, and gas prices remain elevated, but “the run (on gas) has stopped,” said Cary Rabb, owner of...
Letting kids sleep in could save U.S. $9 billion a year, study finds

Letting kids sleep in could save U.S. $9 billion a year, study finds

Starting school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. could not only save the U.S. $9 billion every year, it might also lead to improved educational achievement and fewer traffic accidents among tired teenagers. Those are a couple of conclusions from an extensive Rand Corporation study on delaying school start times.   The research suggests that a later school start time could result in economic...
James Avery Craftsman selling Texas charm to help Hurricane Harvey victims

James Avery Craftsman selling Texas charm to help Hurricane Harvey victims

Texas jewelry chain James Avery Craftsman is stepping up to help its home state after Hurricane Harvey.  In an August 30 Facebook post, the company announced that the proceeds of one of its most popular jewelry charms would be donated to help Texans recover from the storm. The “Deep in the Heart of Texas” sterling silver charm features the state of Texas with a small heart carved...
Commentary: Tap enterprise fund to lure Toyota/Mazda to San Antonio

Commentary: Tap enterprise fund to lure Toyota/Mazda to San Antonio

It also wasn’t easy for Texas to win the Toyota plant in San Antonio against intense competition from sites in several other southern states. It promised thousands of construction jobs, thousands more permanent jobs and a multibillion-dollar impact on the Texas economy. Before Toyota selected San Antonio for the plant, an ad hoc team tackled every possible obstacle. The team included representatives...
TWO VIEWS: How our labor movement has suffered from its success

TWO VIEWS: How our labor movement has suffered from its success

Too often, we Americans see Labor Day as the end-of-the-summer finale and forget its origins. We have that unfortunate tendency with many of our holidays – to enjoy their festiveness and not recall or honor why they came into existence. Labor Day originated in the union movement and eventually became a federal holiday in 1894 to pay respect to working people who have struggled throughout our...
Commentary: I’m diabetic. If I stop working, I don’t have money to live

Commentary: I’m diabetic. If I stop working, I don’t have money to live

My first job was in fast food. I was a teenager in California, and I made $8 per hour. This March, I turned 39. I’ve worked in food service off and on all throughout my life. Right now, I work two jobs. I’m still in fast food; one of my jobs is at Church’s Chicken. They pay me $9 per hour. I beat myself up about how little I make in silence but not outwardly. It hurts to know that...
‘Panic buying’ blamed for long lines, empty gas pumps

‘Panic buying’ blamed for long lines, empty gas pumps

As sporadic lines began forming at area gas stations Thursday and photos of empty gasoline pumps began ricocheting across social media, hundreds of motorists opted for the precautionary measure of joining the queues themselves to top off — armed in many cases with extra gas cans. Gasoline supplies have been constrained statewide since Hurricane Harvey walloped the Gulf Coast’s huge energy...
An Austin-made app proved crucial to Harvey rescuers

An Austin-made app proved crucial to Harvey rescuers

An app that provided a crucial communication link between citizen rescuers and Houston residents stranded by rising floodwaters is made by a little-known Austin company called Zello.  Zello’s smartphone app essentially acts like a walkie talkie, allowing users to send voice messages in real time to anyone listening to a channel. During the flooding this week from Harvey, channels earmarked ...

Dell Foundation launches $100 million Harvey relief effort

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. President Donald Trump. Actress Sandra Bullock. Comedian Kevin Hart. Plenty of big names have stepped up this week, giving to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Now it’s time to add the wealthiest man in Central Texas to the list. Michael Dell, CEO of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies and a graduate of Memorial High School...
Texas poised to issue first medical marijuana licenses

Texas poised to issue first medical marijuana licenses

Three small companies — two of them in the Austin metro area — are on the verge of making history by winning the first Texas licenses to grow, process and sell a form of medical marijuana in the state. But the renown isn’t expected to equate to quick profits, and success over the long haul likely depends as much on the Texas Legislature as on their business acumen. The companies...
Texas issues first medical marijuana license; two more on tap

Texas issues first medical marijuana license; two more on tap

A Florida company has made history by winning the first Texas license to grow, process and sell a form of medical marijuana in the state — but only for patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy. Cansortium Texas, a division of Florida-based Cansortium Holdings, which sells medical cannabis under the Knox Medical brand, was awarded the license Friday and will operate a facility on West...
STATESMAN EXCLUSIVE: Apple’s Cook: ‘Want to continue to grow’ in Austin

STATESMAN EXCLUSIVE: Apple’s Cook: ‘Want to continue to grow’ in Austin

Apple Inc. is the world’s largest consumer electronics company – and Austin has become extremely important to Apple’s future. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently made a visit to Austin to stop by the company’s new complex here, meet with employees and announce a new educational partnership with Austin Community College. Cook also sat down for a one-on-one interview with the American-Statesman...
People in Austin are talking about gas -- here’s what they’re saying

People in Austin are talking about gas -- here’s what they’re saying

News spread quickly Thursday that some Texas gas stations were hanging “no gas” signs up in their windows in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Lines outside gas stations around the state formed even quicker.  Despite reassurance from the state’s railroad commissioner that the issue would be short-lived and was being exacerbated by panic purchasing, many Austinities were still on...
Commentary: This Labor Day, celebrate the miracle of honest, hard work

Commentary: This Labor Day, celebrate the miracle of honest, hard work

In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, a labor union leader, proposed the creation of a “Labor Day” holiday to celebrate and honor the American worker. Today, most Americans have no clue about how much things have changed during the past 150 years. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that “… [Labor Day’s] focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, [and] the holiday...
Austin, other Texas areas see some Harvey-related gas shortages

Austin, other Texas areas see some Harvey-related gas shortages

Motorists in Austin and statewide have been encountering increasing numbers of “No Gas” signs when they try to fill up, evidence of the battering Hurricane Harvey delivered to the Gulf Coast’s huge energy complex. Industry experts say the shortages are likely to be sporadic and short-lived. “Motorists tend to overreact to situations like these and then make them even worse...
Commentary: How changes to federal law would hurt Austin tech industry

Commentary: How changes to federal law would hurt Austin tech industry

Here in Austin, we boast more than 120,000 tech workers and 5,800 tech employers. Our tech jobs make up nearly 25 percent of the Austin area’s payroll. The University of Texas has a nationally ranked computer science and engineering program. Our other local colleges and universities excel in these disciplines as well. We are blessed with tech companies that value the way they treat their employees...
Price gouging claims rise in Harvey’s aftermath

Price gouging claims rise in Harvey’s aftermath

Heroic volunteer rescue workers in their own boats are among the most indelible images of Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, but the wake of the storm also is spawning dismaying reports of $99 cases of water and $20 gallons of gasoline. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office had received 684 complaints of price gouging and various scams and of fraudulent charities related to Hurricane Harvey...
Harvey’s economic impact will be felt statewide, but so will recovery

Harvey’s economic impact will be felt statewide, but so will recovery

The destruction inflicted by Hurricane Harvey struck at the very heart of the Texas economy, shutting down one of the state’s largest shipping and distribution hubs, laying siege to the capital of its energy industry and pummeling some of its favorite tourist destinations. While most of the economic damage will be temporary – and a massive influx of insurance, federal and other funding...
Kerbey Lane Cafe coming to Mueller development

Kerbey Lane Cafe coming to Mueller development

Four years after they staged an “eat in” in hopes of convincing Kerbey Lane Café to open a location in the Mueller area, residents there are about to get their wish. The Austin chain known for its queso and pancakes, among other menu offerings, said Wednesday that it will open a restaurant in the heart of the Central Austin development in fall 2018. It will be Kerbey Lane Café...
PANCAKES AND QUESO: Kerbey Lane Cafe coming to Mueller development

PANCAKES AND QUESO: Kerbey Lane Cafe coming to Mueller development

Four years after they staged an “eat in” in hopes of convincing Kerbey Lane Café to open a location in the Mueller area, residents there are about to get their wish. The beloved Austin chain known for its queso and pancakes, among other menu offerings, said Wednesday that it will open a restaurant in the heart of the Central Austin development in fall 2018. It’ll be Kerbey...
Author, journalist and ‘Black Panther’ scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates announced as SXSW keynote 

Author, journalist and ‘Black Panther’ scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates announced as SXSW keynote 

South by Southwest has announced its fourth keynote: it’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, the award-winning author of “Between the World and Me” who is also a national correspondent for The Atlantic and writer of the “Black Panther” line of Marvel Comics (soon to be a highly anticipated film). Coates was also awarded a MacArthur Genius award in 2015...
Texas cattle industry could see ‘dramatic’ effects from Harvey

Texas cattle industry could see ‘dramatic’ effects from Harvey

1 p.m. update: Texas Department of Agriculture Sid Miller said that, although there are no numbers available on loss of livestock, that is expected to change as flood waters recede and people are able to return to their properties and begin assessing damages. The Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) Animal Response Operation Coordination Center has established a Hurricane Harvey Hotline at...
Austin Duck Adventures’ amphibious vehicles helping in Houston

Austin Duck Adventures’ amphibious vehicles helping in Houston

Amphibious vehicles that ferry tourists through Austin’s major sightseeing attractions are in Houston this week with a mission to deliver medical supplies to the inundated city. Austin Duck Adventures co-owner Paul Mahler headed to Houston Monday night in the first of two duck boats the company sent to join the disaster relief effort. A second duck boat left Tuesday morning, said co-owner Robert...
Texas insurers mobilizing to handle Harvey claims

Texas insurers mobilizing to handle Harvey claims

As Texas grapples with unprecedented flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey, “catastrophe teams” from insurance companies are moving in to assess damage to hard-hit areas, the Insurance Council of Texas said. The Houston area has seen widespread flooding and more rain expected throughout the week. Other Southeast Texas counties also are seeing significant flooding, the state industry trade...
State accepting applications for Harvey-related workers’ aid

State accepting applications for Harvey-related workers’ aid

The Texas Workforce Commission on Monday said it has started accepting applications for disaster-related unemployment benefits to aid workers who lost jobs or self-employed individuals who were unable to work because of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey. The disaster unemployment assistance is available to individuals in the 18 counties identified under President Donald Trump&rsquo...
Harvey creates big test for new Texas property insurance law

Harvey creates big test for new Texas property insurance law

A controversial new Texas law designed to protect insurance companies from abusive lawsuits in the wake of “forces of nature” — such as hurricanes — is about to get an immediate test. The law is set to take effect Friday, while much of the Texas coast remains a drenched disaster area after Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi last week as a Category 4 storm, battered...
Southwest Airlines adding nonstop flights from Austin to 3 more cities

Southwest Airlines adding nonstop flights from Austin to 3 more cities

Southwest Airlines is adding three more nonstop destinations at Austin’s airport. The Dallas-based low-cost carrier said Monday it will kick off daily service to San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., on April 8. “The new nonstop of Sacramento makes connecting capital to capital easier than ever,” Jim Smith, executive director of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said in a written...
Whole Foods drops prices as much as 43% as Amazon makes good on promise

Whole Foods drops prices as much as 43% as Amazon makes good on promise

Amazon officially acquired Whole Foods Market Monday and immediately made good on a promise to cut prices at the high-end grocery store, nicknamed “Whole Paycheck.” The tech giant bought the grocery chain for almost $14 billion and announced last week it would immediately lower prices. “This is just the beginning – we will make Amazon Prime the customer rewards program...
STILL ROOM LEFT: Austin-area hotels ready for Harvey evacuees

STILL ROOM LEFT: Austin-area hotels ready for Harvey evacuees

With the city set to welcome thousands of University of Texas students back to town, this weekend was already shaping up to be a busy one for Austin-area hotels. Then Hurricane Harvey hit, with coastal residents fanning out across the state in search of shelter. Many wound up in Austin. Hoteliers here say they were ready, starting preparations days in advance as forecasters began issuing dire warnings...

Austin-area grocery, home improvement stores generally keeping stocked

While some Austin area shoppers found shelves emptied of certain items, several grocery and home-improvement store managers said their stores had no major issues with the distribution and availability of goods in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the companies are making plans to help residents returning to the coast. “I’m not hearing any major outages of any product, but with as...
Top Local Business Stories of the Week

Top Local Business Stories of the Week

WHOLE FOODS VOTE Whole Foods shareholders approve sale to Amazon: Whole Foods Market is one step closer to becoming a part of Amazon.com. The grocer’s shareholders last week approved the sale of the company to the e-commerce giant, with a number of of them gathering at Whole Foods’ headquarters on Bowie Street in Austin to vote on the $13.7 billion deal, while others voted by mail, telephone...

Up the Ladder

Community The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has named Leigh Christie senior vice president of global technology and innovation. Health care St. David’s HealthCare has named Ken Mitchell senior vice president and chief medical officer. Industry organizations Gayle Anthony Davis has been named vice president of the Austin chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning...
Sunset review, court challenge greet new state securities chief

Sunset review, court challenge greet new state securities chief

Travis Iles has worked at the Texas State Securities Board for 16 years, and even he wasn’t there the last time the agency underwent a sunset review. Now, his first order of business as the state’s new securities commissioner will be delivering the agency’s initial sunset report – due Thursday, his first day as state securities commissioner. “There are very few people...
Hurricane Harvey: Texas energy industry braces for potential damage

Hurricane Harvey: Texas energy industry braces for potential damage

Hurricane Harvey churned toward the Texas coast and its huge petrochemical complexes on Friday, raising the specter of environmental devastation, economic damage and fuel-supply disruptions depending on where it makes landfall and how long it lingers. Plans were in the works to possibly shut down the huge nuclear power plant on the coast — the South Texas Project about 10 miles inland from Matagorda...
Hurricane Harvey: Stores try to keep up as Texans rush to buy supplies

Hurricane Harvey: Stores try to keep up as Texans rush to buy supplies

Central Austin resident Natalie Wald usually visits the grocery store at the end of each work week. But Friday was a bit different. She grabbed extra supplies this time around: more bottled water, milk and a trove of batteries for flashlights. “I had to change my grocery list a bit,” Wald, 34, said at an H-E-B grocery store near the University of Texas campus. “You always want to...

Gas prices haven’t jumped yet, but Harvey could change that

Average gasoline prices across the state haven’t climbed significantly yet in advance of Hurricane Harvey, according to auto club AAA Texas. Still, the club said Friday that pump prices could go up, at least for a short period. “You often see spikes because of a hurricane,” said Daniel Armbruster, a spokesman for AAA in Texas and New Mexico. “They tend to be brief but dramatic...
Home Depot working to keep Texas stores stocked as Harvey bears down

Home Depot working to keep Texas stores stocked as Harvey bears down

Home Depot said Friday that it is restocking its stores that are in the path of Hurricane Harvey as fast as it can with plywood, generators, water and other emergency supplies. “It has been extremely busy,” said Matthew Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman.”Some stores may sell through product very quickly, but we have inventory continuing to go into the area today.” HURRICANE...
Commentary: Why your neighborhood grocery store is changing

Commentary: Why your neighborhood grocery store is changing

Clearly, grocery stores play an important role in our daily lives, but grocers are facing unseen outside challenges today that will change the way we view our neighborhood grocery store. From a top-down perspective, the online world has started to merge with the offline world. The climax of this was the recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, which will allow Amazon to tap into the only large...

Oil companies, retailers brace for Harvey’s Texas impact

Energy companies evacuated workers from offshore gulf drilling platforms, grocery stores boosted inventories to ensure shelves remain stocked and commodities traders placed bets on the direction of oil and gas prices as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast. Lisa Ashley, a Port of Houston Authority spokeswoman, said emergency preparations for Harvey were under way Thursday afternoon but that...
Plans for revamped San Marcos shopping center include 233 apartments

Plans for revamped San Marcos shopping center include 233 apartments

An Austin developer has changed course on plans to revamp a San Marcos shopping center. Since taking control of Springtown Center in 2014, Endeavor Real Estate has landed a number of high-profile tenants to fill what was, at the time, a sickly strip mall that was only 10 percent occupied. Additions have included heavy hitters such as Chuy’s, Gold’s Gym and The Spot, an entertainment venue...
Whole Foods shareholders OK sale to Amazon

Whole Foods shareholders OK sale to Amazon

Shareholders for Austin-based Whole Foods Market have approved the sale of the company to the e-commerce Amazon.com, Whole Foods executives say. A number of the company’s shareholders gathered Wednesday morning at Whole Foods’ headquarters on Bowie Street in Austin to vote on the $13.7 billion deal, while others voted by mail, telephone and Internet. With the shareholders’ approval...
As demolitions rise in Austin, audit questions safety enforcement

As demolitions rise in Austin, audit questions safety enforcement

In recent years, Austin has seen a growing number of building demolitions as the city continues to redevelop, but an audit presented Tuesday found the city is failing to ensure that basic safety provisions are followed. The audit found that city staffers processing the permits are not fully considering some safety risks involving demolitions, including proper disposal of lead materials and state-required...
NW Austin movie theater reopens after massive renovation

NW Austin movie theater reopens after massive renovation

A Northwest Austin movie theater has reopened under new management following a months-long renovation. AMC now operates the nine-screen cineplex at Lakeline Mall, 11200 Lakeline Mall Drive. It was formerly run by Regal Cinemas before closing this year. Upgrades include AMC’s “signature” recliners, an expanded food menu, new audio and video technology and a MacGuffins-branded bar...
Cedar Park shopping center sells for $112.25 million

Cedar Park shopping center sells for $112.25 million

A Cedar Park shopping center has changed hands in a deal valued at $112.25 million. The Parke, which opened this year at 5001 183A toll road, is a 404,000-square-foot center anchored by the region’s first 365 by Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Field & Stream, among others. PHOTOS: Cedar Park’s 365 by Whole Foods Market store InvenTrust Properties Corp...
Apple owners beware: Scammers are targeting you for identity theft 

Apple owners beware: Scammers are targeting you for identity theft 

The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about a scam that’s targeting Apple customers. Con artists are calling people across the United States and Canada and claiming that their iCloud accounts have been hacked, the BBB says. Some targets have said they’ve received 10 or more calls a day. The scam starts when people get a robocall claiming to be from Apple Support. The...
Austin lands conference focused on health care innovation

Austin lands conference focused on health care innovation

Local health care industry officials on Tuesday said they have enticed a key conference to move to Austin from Atlanta and expect at least 500 top executives to attend next spring. The third annual Transformation in Health Conference, tentatively scheduled for April or May, relocated to Austin to tap into the region’s entrepreneurial and budding health-care ecosystems, the event’s organizers...
Mar-a-Lago dumped, more event cancellations after Trump’s Charlottesville remarks

Mar-a-Lago dumped, more event cancellations after Trump’s Charlottesville remarks

The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and an ovarian cancer group are the latest nonprofits to cancel charity events at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. The Preservation Foundation, which celebrates and protects the architectural and cultural heritage of Palm Beach, planned to host a dance in March at the club, which has long been an oasis for charities and their patrons during...
Top Local Business Stories of the Week

Top Local Business Stories of the Week

GOOGLE’S GROWTH Google gobbles up more space in Austin high-rise: Google is growing its downtown Austin footprint, even before its first employees set foot in the company’s new space in the sleek new office tower called 500 West 2nd. The new space ultimately will house more than 450 Google employees, working on products and teams across Android, G Suite, Google Play, human resources, finance...

Up the Ladder

Home products Artisan Group has named Sunil Palakodati executive director and Jon Lancto president. Nonprofits The Texas Cultural Trust has named Heidi Marquez Smith executive director. Transportation Fasten has named Joe Deshotel regional director of business development for the Austin market.
Austin jobless rate drops, tightening labor market’s grip on job growth

Austin jobless rate drops, tightening labor market’s grip on job growth

Austin has one of the tightest labor markets in the country, and some parts of the metro area’s economy appear to be bumping up against the hiring ceiling. While regional employers continue to expand payrolls, especially in industries tied to population growth, some key sectors of the economy have started to see job-creation rates decelerate in the past 18 months. July did little to alleviate...
Chase set to close some Central Texas bank branches

Chase set to close some Central Texas bank branches

Chase is continuing to pare down the number of branches it operates in the Austin area. The banking giant confirmed Friday that it plans to close four more Central Texas branches by year’s end. It has already closed three local branches so far this year, in addition to six locations inside H-E-B stores that were shuttered in 2016. The newly announced closures are: ...
Austin unemployment rate drops to 3.2 percent in July

Austin unemployment rate drops to 3.2 percent in July

Strong job creation at Austin’s factories and construction companies offset some of the typical decline in public-sector jobs during July, helping nudge the metro area’s unemployment rate lower, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission. Overall, local employers cut 8,200 jobs during the month, a 0.8 percent decline that was lighter than the usual...
Commentary: On reviewing NAFTA principles, first do no harm

Commentary: On reviewing NAFTA principles, first do no harm

I’ll be joined by government, business and nonprofit leaders in El Paso at the 2017 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit to discuss the merits of this trade agreement and what the future holds for U.S.-Mexico trade relations under NAFTA 2.0. While in some ways our conversation will mirror that happening in Washington, D.C. — what about the original trade agreement worked well, what has changed in...

Central Texas home sales up 2.8% in July

Austin-area home sales and prices continued on their upward trend in July, with both showing increases over the same month last year, the Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday. Inventory levels also were up. Sales of single-family homes rose 2.8 percent, with 2,892 houses changing hands, the board in its latest monthly report, which covers the five-county Austin region from Georgetown to San Marcos...
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