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3M DEAL

3M to sell Austin unit to Corning in its latest local downsizing: Industrial and consumer products company 3M continues to reduce its Austin footprint, announcing plans to shed a unit based here that makes bandwidth and optical fiber devices for the telecommunications sector — six months after it reached a separate deal to sell its main local campus.

Corning is buying 3M’s communication markets division for $900 million in a cash transaction that’s expected to close next year, the two companies said Monday. The division employs 120 people in Austin and is based here, although the bulk of the unit’s 500 employees are located in Germany and France, according to a 3M spokeswoman.

M. Elizabeth Dann, a Corning spokeswoman, said the 3M division will be folded into Corning’s optical communications business once the deal closes, but said no decisions have been made as to how the integration will occur. The Corning division is based in North Carolina.

“Our first goal is to better understand the current operations and then we can determine how best to integrate,” Dann said. “Location-specific employee details are not yet available.”

Based in St. Paul, Minn., 3M is perhaps best known for Post-it notes and Scotch tape. The company currently employs about 800 people at its main, 156-acre Austin campus at RM 2222 and RM 620. It also has a manufacturing plant on Research Boulevard in North Austin, although the company didn’t provide an immediate tally of the number of employees it has there.

In June, 3M announced it had reached a deal to sell the main local campus to Austin-based World Class Capital, a private investment firm that focuses on real estate, for an undisclosed price. 3M built the campus in 1988 but said when it first put the tract on the market in 2016 that it had been using only “a portion” of it.

The sale of the campus is expected to close by the end of this year, although 3M plans to lease the facility and keep its employees there until early 2019, when it has said it will move them to a new building that it’s leasing in the Tech Ridge area of Northeast Austin.

Lori Anderson, a 3M spokeswoman, said that 100 of the Austin employees in the communication markets division that is being sold to Corning work at the main Austin campus, while 20 are “non-production” employees who work at the plant.

ECONOMIC PLAN

Chamber sets new economic roadmap with Opportunity Austin 4.0: The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce last week unveiled Opportunity Austin 4.0, the latest iteration of its economic development roadmap and one that seeks to expand on existing efforts to help more Central Texans share in the region’s prosperity.

While the architects of the new version did not call for any surprising new strategic shifts — as its predecessor did with the addition of plans to reduce poverty and increase wages — they did allocate more resources toward efforts to address the region’s major challenges and take advantage of key opportunities.

“It’s taking (Opportunity Austin) 3.0 and putting it on steroids,” said Mike Berman, the chamber’s senior vice president of communications and marketing.

The new plan will transition more resources toward efforts to address transportation and affordability, including ways to develop more regional employment centers around the metro area. But it also envisions a bigger push to capitalize on newer opportunities, such as the innovation district emerging around the Dell Medical School.

And while Opportunity Austin 4.0 includes many outward looking elements — continued robust recruitment efforts, the addition of direct transpacific flights and programs to encourage more foreign direct investment in the Austin — it also includes a broader shift toward investments in local companies, workers and issues.

“We will still have a robust attraction program,” said Gary Farmer, president of Heritage Title and chairman of Opportunity Austin 4.0. “But we think we can really advance the ball by spending more time with our existing companies, both large and small.”

Typically, about 80 percent of the jobs created in a metro area emerge from existing companies, Farmer said. So the new plan envisions more programs that assist local firms and help enhance the region’s business environment as a whole, but especially for startups and growth businesses.

Farmer and his colleagues at Opportunity Austin, the chamber’s economic development affiliate, again laid out an extensive set of goals to measure progress along the way. At the top line, they said they hope to add 161,000 net new jobs by 2023, the last of the five years included in version 4.0.

Other targets include increasing the share of metro area residents with an associate’s degree and boosting the region’s average annual wage to $66,000, which equates to growth of roughly 3 percent a year.

The new plan also sets a target to decrease the Central Texas poverty rate to 9.5 percent from the current 11.7 percent mark, Farmer said.



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