Austin has become one of the most vibrant high technology regions in the nation. Semiconductor and related equipment manufacturing, along with computer and software development, are key industries to the local economy, attracting numerous transplants such as IBM, 3M, Samsung, AMD and Applied Materials, all anchored by Dell. A diverse employment base helped Austin weather the recent economic recession and provides a bright outlook for future job growth.
In the metro, eight universities and colleges help fuel the local high-tech economy by offering substantial funds for research and development expenditures. These institutions also provide local employers with an immediate source of well-educated workers and offer continuing education opportunities.
A diverse local economy and well-trained labor pool help Austin maintain its status as one of the top employment growth centers in the nation. The metro work force possesses a high level of education due to solid primary and secondary schools; strong community colleges, such as Austin Community College; and the reputable University of Texas at Austin.
Located within a border state, the Austin economy benefits significantly from international trade due to NAFTA, which eliminates most tariffs and trade barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada. As the state capital, Austin relies heavily on government employment. While other industries generated more jobs over the past several years, the government sector continues to account for the greatest share of nonfarm employment.
Austin lies along the Colorado River, where it emerges from the Texas Hill Country and the Balcones Escarpment. The 32,000-square-mile Texas Hill Country begins in Austin and stretches approximately 150 miles to the west. This area consists of rolling hills, valleys and small canyons, with flora including mountain junipers, live oaks, Chinquapin oaks and sycamores.
The Austin metro contains Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell and Bastrop counties and covers about 4,225 square miles. The population of the metro increased significantly in recent decades to more than 1.8 million. Growth stemmed mainly from in-migration due to job gains. Austin, the capital city, is also the largest with a population of 837,200.