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Austin-San Antonio Region Unites On Growth Strategies.

Leaders of the nation's cities art, increasingly involved in collaborations aimed at ensuring the competitiveness of their regional economy for the benefit of the area's residents. This article (below) about the Austin-San Antonio region initiatives continues a Weekly series on these efforts at "regional economic governance.

These articles build on NLC's long-standing focus on regional economies and inter-local collaboration. Among the products of that focus are:

* NLC publications, including the 1996 survey of 476 cities American Cities in the Global Economy, have highlighted the local challenges and opportunities presented by the international economy.

* In 1996 and again in 1998, NLC conducted successful national conferences on "Achieving World Class Local Economies."

* The 1993 Futures Report, Global Dollars, Local Sense, presented the case for city officials to develop more fully their cities' roles in the global context.

* The path-breaking report, "All in it Together" documented that the economic fates and fortunes of cities and suburbs art, tied together in their "local economic regions."

--Bill Barnes

Its history stems from a forum of regional public and private sector leaders in 1982 that explored economic development issues such as improving the ability of the Central/ South Texas region's to compete, particularly with areas like Houston and Dallas. Through this forum, it became clear that the region needed a unified, well-thought-out approach for the future. Area leaders recognized that common economic, social, and environmental goals unite the region and that the region's success hinged on pooling its resources to address regional challenges and improve its development potential by defining a development zone that offers the best of the region to business.

In order to develop a unified approach for the region's future, leaders needed to identify an institution that would define the regional issues and opportunities as well as coordinate efforts to address them. Because the regions chambers were city-focused, they were unsuitable candidates for meeting the region's needs in this area. The region's management planning organization focused on infrastructure and was restricted in its ability to work beyond those issues.

In 1984, a group of public and private sector leaders created the Greater Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council. The creation of the Council reinforced the region's determination to work cooperatively to manage growth while preserving the region's natural beauty and quality of life.

The Corridor Council provides a mechanism to build cooperation and provides neutral ground to facilitate the re[don in achieving its goals. Although the Council has no formal authority, its strength is derived from the degree of consensus it creates around the issues it addresses.

According to David Robison, the Corridor Council's president, the Council's success lies in the ability of members and staff to "rally the troops to create partnerships, build public consensus and remove obstacles." While each jurisdiction in the region may not agree on all issues, the Council identifies issues of mutual interest and establishes coalitions to tackle them. This includes a recently-assembled economic development team of area organizations that work together on recruitment and retention of businesses and a regional marketing effort.

The Austin-San Antonio Corridor stretches 100 miles from South San Antonio to Georgetown (north of Austin) and is the busiest inter-metro Interstate in Texas. Austin, the capital of the state of Texas, is known for its concentration of high technology computer and software companies including, Dell Computer, IBM, Motorola, AMD and Samsung. San Antonio is world-renowned for medical and biotechnical research and manufacturing facilities and was selected by the United States, Mexico and Canada as the headquarters for the NAFTA-sparked North American Development Bank.

One of the Council's primary concerns has been regional transportation problems. The Council's goal in this area is to develop a long-range plan that will allow for the region's growth while taking into account people, institutions, and the environment.

The dominant transportation problem in the corridor is congestion on Interstate 35 between Austin and San Antonio. This highway is not only the primary commuter roadway between the two cities, is it also a key artery for truck traffic, primarily due to increased exports from Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Traffic volume on 1-35 is expanding four times faster than the region's population growth, which is considerable, given that the Austin-San Antonio region is among the five fastest-growing regions in the country.

The Corridor Council proposed two solutions to relieving congestion on 1-35: the construction of a commuter rail and the construction of an alternative highway. The Council held public meetings and debates on the merits of both alternatives. As a result of developing a consensus, a commuter rail district was created between Austin and San Antonio.

The Council is governed by a board of directors comprised of private and public sector members. Exact composition of the board is not predetermined. Once the agenda has been established, members are selected based on their ability to contribute toward achieving the goals set by the Council. Public representatives include county commissioners, county judges and mayors. The chambers of commerce, universities, corporations, economic development groups and foundations provide representation of the private sector.

The Board serves as the policy-makers for the Council. The five full-time employees staff departments that include administration and membership, infrastructure, and economic development. Although the Council does not take a lobbying role in the community, it provides input to the congressional delegation on key issues and assists member communities.

The Corridor Council represents a nine-county area of 5,320 square miles. Depending on the project, the Council has "borrowed" staff from universities and task forces. Funding comes from both the private and public sector (approximately 50/50). Remaining revenue sources include contracts with public and private institutions and subscriptions to Council publications.

Details: Contact David Robison, president, at 512-245-2535, via email at drobison@itouch.net or visit the Commission's web site at http://www.corridorcouncil.org.

This series of articles was prepared for NLC by staff of the Urban Center at Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs: Daila Shimek is a research associate; Kevin O'Brien is director of State and Intergovernmental Initiatives: and Susan Petrone is Editor.

Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council

Area represented: 9 counties

Population: 4.5 million

Board: 60 members representing higher education, public and private sectors

Established: 1971
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Shimek, Daila; O'Brien, Kevin; Petrone, Susan
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Mar 8, 1999
Words:1040
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