Today we’re going to expand our focus a bit, and look at the entire state of Texas, not just Austin. We want to dig into what has brought so much attention, and new people to the Lone Star State, how it’s impacting business, culture, and innovation. The concept of a super-region isn’t new. But the idea of a Texas Triangle is something new and unique. And that’s what we explored with Ed Curtis, Founder and CEO of YTexas. All of Texas is accelerating...What's next Austin?
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Our music is “Tech Talk” by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License
Ed Curtis of Y Texas
Michael Scharf: Austin continues transforming into the next innovation powerhouse. In this podcast, we explore how central Texas is growing the people and companies, the industries, and infrastructure, the macro and micro trends that come together to create the future of Austin. I'm Michael Scharf advisor and consultant to FinTech, cyber and environmental companies.
Jason Scharf: I'm Jason Scharf, a biotech executive in early stages.
Michael Scharf: And this is Austin. Next today, we're going to expand our focus a bit and look at the entire state of Texas, not just Austin. We wanted to dig into what has brought so much attention and so many new people to the lone star state, how it's impacting businesses, culture, and innovation, the concept of a super region.
Isn't new silicon valley in California, research triangle in North Carolina, the beltway in Washington, DC, but the idea of a Texas triangle is something new and unique. And that's what we wanted to explore today. Joining us for this discussion is ed Curtis. The CEO and founder of Y, Texas, and the author of the book by the same name, born and raised in New York, ed relocated to Dallas, Texas at the age of 25 and is happily lived in the lone star state ever since.
20 years later, he founded the group. Why Texas, which is a network of business leaders providing help and support to companies looking to relocate or to expand in Texas
Ed curtis, welcome to the Austin next podcast
Ed Curtis: well thank you for having I'm looking forward to it.
Michael Scharf: Bit of background about yourself. How did you end up in Texas?
Ed Curtis: Oh man. It was really almost a mistake. I was working in a New York city for an ad agency. And one of my markets happened to have been Dallas Fort worth.
We bought and sold the airtime, TV and radio airtime. And I met somebody from from Dallas. So I sold to different markets. I sold. Portland and LA and Dallas, and a very, very cutthroat business. And so you get on the phone, it's like, what do you need? What's the price? What's the cost? Hang up. Whenever I would talk to the people from Dallas, they would always, always ask me how my day was.
Talk about, you know, whatever's happening in Dallas at the time, or there's the Cowboys. And that was kind of my foray into having interest in what was happening in Dallas. And I had taken a road trip down here in the early nineties, ended up staying and now I'm still here. 28 years later.
Michael Scharf: There you go. So you've seen a lot. What are the one or two big changes you've seen in tech? And hopefully it's not the influx of a bunch of refugees from California
Ed Curtis: You know what? I think it's the embracing of technology. Whether it's with the space race. Of course, NASA has been here forever, whether it's the oil and gas industry, of course, with fracking that's, you know, has a technological spin to it.
But all the technology that's, you know, furthering our energy footprint to our healthcare system, to our transportation system, you could be the first high speed rail that's for the most part, not federally funded. So I think, you know, Entrepreneurial spirit, which everybody says, but I think it's that the, the bridge between that and this technological technology revolution that I believe Texas is leading the nation.
And that's what I see. That's what I see. Great.
Michael Scharf: So tell me, what is, why Texas? How did you start it and what is it geared towards?
Ed Curtis: Well, I, I started it as an idea. And the idea was I had moved here myself as a young man. I was not a businessman. I had moved to Texas. I did not know anyone. I quickly built up a network, as I'm sure many people can relate to.
It's very easy to meet people and. People are very willing to help you. And I was in the midst of my banking career. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the governor's office of economic development, through an organization called Texas one. That was basically a platform for anyone in business to go on delegation trips with the office of economic development, the secretary of state, the governor, just to sell Texas to.
States and even other countries on the benefits of doing business here. And I did that for about a year and I came up with the idea to essentially create kind of like a soft landing onboarding program for companies that were doing the same thing I did, except moving hundreds of people, moving their brand, moving.
Headquarters to help them be successful throughout the state. And we've been around for nine years. So the it's evolved into a lot more than just a networking platform, but that's essentially how it got started
Michael Scharf: and Y Texas is different because you focus on companies that have already made that decision to move to Texas. As you called it, the Soft Landing
Ed Curtis: I'm glad you said that because yes, most people think that we're in the recruiting business and I'm sure most entrepreneurs can relate to this when you're starting are somewhat new concepts. Most people either try to compare you to something that they're familiar with, like a chamber or an economic development organization.
And then it's, it's hard for them to understand what you're trying to do. If it's something. For the most part has never been done before. So I learned early on, I do not want to get involved in the recruiting because our state does a fantastic job of it. Our chambers do a fantastic job on it.
Obviously you've, you've, you're interviewing the Austin regional chamber. Some of the best in the world at recruiting companies, we felt it was best for us to focus on these companies after they got here. I mean, I think of my personal decision to move. There were of course a number of personal decisions as to why I came here, but really after I came here and how I got to where I got, I think.
It was really where a big impact was not being met. Not because those organizations aren't good at it. It's just, that's not their mission. From at least from a statewide basis as to why I had focused on after they get here.
Jason Scharf: They've been recruited, they've made the decision. You've now seen this over a decade.
What is the most pressing needs to help make them the soft landing, right. Versus just the asteroid coming in.
Ed Curtis: Well, we, you know, we hear this term called supply chain and it's it's a real deal and it's almost like a vendor and supply chain. And that is, you know what I think about if you were to move here yourselves, right?
Of course, you know, you need to buy a house and you need. You know, get a new doctor and get a new school and all those things, but think about what a company would need outside of some of the personal issues that the employees deal with, like housing and, you know, schools, we don't necessarily get too involved with that, but all of the other things that accompany needs when they move here, you know, building relationships with legislators, understanding the regulations in the tax law.
That are different than what they were dealing with in their other states, of course, employee relations, getting to know the media, understanding how to get front row seats to a Mavericks game. You know, all of these things that these companies would do on a snap because wherever they came from. they were pretty well connected and big wig type companies.
Those are the things that we realized are a number of things that these companies need. So it's that I call it the supply chain because it really is this chain of vendors and suppliers and relationships that are a lot extended, a lot further outside of just their region, but span across the state.
Jason Scharf: I'm sure what the way Luka's playing, getting those a front row seats are hard to get.
Ed Curtis: Yes. And you know what, the front row seats to the believe it or not to the spurs are probably harder. And a lot of people that have a lot of people that are moving to Austin are going to spurs games because it's the closest NBA team to what they had.
There are a lot of them are Lakers fans and warriors fans, and they probably have front row seats or close to it, maybe next to a Nicholson. And they're calling up the Spears and they're like, yeah, those have been sold for like the last 10 years.
Jason Scharf: It's an interesting how those things kind of change. So over the past 10 years, has it been changing the needs?
Right? Is it, I mean, a lot of the things that you mentioned, media legislation entertainment seems like things that would set in motion and you may have talked to different people 10 years ago than today may have different entertainment environments, but given the increase of people kind of moving here, and I think it's just been accelerating.
What are the different things that are coming up that have been changing?
Ed Curtis: Yeah, talent is, is for sure. Number one. But what I like to talk about that most people don't talk about is this supply chain. And what I mean by that is we live in an on-demand world. And I mean, you know, we want our packages tomorrow.
Actually, we want them today. You know, we want everything immediately. And the successful companies out there are finding a way to deliver what you need. Immediately and because of our centralized location in the United States, because we have a very aggressive and active port of entry that can bring in, you know, important export materials we have world-class airports, you know, all those things that the economic develop.
Corporations use in their toolbox to recruit these companies is, is really relating to everyday people. And that's why you see Amazon making a huge investment in Texas. Of course, Metta and apple and Google, all of these companies that are a part of our everyday life for coming here because a we've got almost 30 million people that live in our state.
You know, they say the Dallas/Forth Worth region has 7.5 million people. That's more than like 30 states. It's insane. The proximity you have to your customer and your people. So that's what I would say is that this supply chain of information and content and transportation is really putting us in a, in a great spot.
So you combine the innovation that's happening and our, you know luck that we happen to be in the central part of the United. Is a big factor.
Jason Scharf: On the supply chain side, one of the things that we've noticed in Austin, and I'm going to make an assumption that the rest of the triangle goes to this as well, is the significant manufacturing base that we have.
And that, that continues to grow, right? Like here in Austin, we have Samsung announcing the $17 billion semiconductor plant. And literally every week we're hearing about other semiconductors coming in. How much does that change in the supply chain to your point that people are coming here because we're not going to physically build the stuff here and that re-shoring how much is Texas really able to take advantage of that?
Ed Curtis: Well, it's all about land. I mean, look, Tesla took down 2100 acres of land that is within ear shot of a major university. Like where in the world can you get that? I mean, and it's been sitting there forever and, you know, Elon Musk I'm sure took a trip down here and it was. What, and, and, and you see that happening across the state.
And I use, I use the Tesla story a lot because I really do feel like that brought other billionaires, if you want to call them and other large employers to really take a closer look to say, wow, you're right. There's still a lot more land that is in relative proximity to highly educated people and master plan communities that don't have to be created out of, out of the clear blue sky.
And so, yeah, I think it's just a combination of land and the fact that we do have an educated population, we have a great highway system, a great rail system. That's been here for decades. And now these smart people are capitalizing on that.
Jason Scharf: It's interesting. I literally read an article like one or two days ago.
Obviously the Elon's been in the news a lot recently, but mentioned the fact that he looked at this area in 20 14, 20 15, and he was looking at Taylor. So that probably the same plot of land that Samsung ended up getting you know, ended up taking and also. It's a lot more usable land. I mean, I think one of the things that was fascinating to me is, you know, coming from California, if you go an hour and a half, you know, east from the water you start getting into, you know, especially down south, like yeah, there's lots of open land.
That's desert. No one wants to be here. What was interesting to me was we, you know, my family and I, we drove up to the, the Dallas, you know, the Texas state fair. So we drove from Austin to Dallas. And I want to say, I remember having this moment either like right after Waco or before, and kind of looking at it, like, yeah, there's nothing here, but that's because there's nothing here.
It looks perfectly nice and it's green it's, you know, and you can just plop a city down here. So you have that much more of that kind of usable land and, you know, the growth that can come along with it, right. That you see that especially in building in Austin is we're seeing more and more building in the kind of surrounding regions because there's that physical space.
Ed Curtis: Yeah, I think when you, when you talk to people from the coasts, it's over Chicago, New York, LA. Commutes and distance is not a big deal. Like I remember I grew up in upstate New York and if we wanted to go to the beach, we had to drive three hours to get to the beach. It was just that, that's what you had to do.
It wasn't a big deal. Most people, it was an hour and a half to commute to work is whether you're taking the train or you're driving, you know, with the bridges and the tunnels and tolls. It was it wasn't a big deal. So we think about, look, we think about Waco. My gosh, it's only what an hour from now. I mean most Austinites would think Waco is.
Forget it there's, there's no way I'd go there because it's too far. Well, now you've got people that are very, very used to driving on an hour or two hours or three hours, which is a trip to Dallas from Austin or Houston to Austin. And they're coming here saying, why are, why shouldn't I go to a rockets game on a Friday night it's only a two and a half hour drive, you know, where we would never dream of doing that.
So I think we're shrinking and, you know, in that regard, because. People that are moving here. See that as not that far
Jason Scharf: So we've talked about a lot of the needs when the customer, when the companies come here, the supply chain and all of its forms, how are they integrating though with the innovation ecosystem?
So they've got the, the, the, the supply chain that they need. How's it go the other direction?
Ed Curtis: Well, that's honestly, I think that's the, the most attractive thing. For these companies is the willingness for our legislators and our universities. Their willingness to work closely and listen to what the private sector has to offer all politics aside.
Of course we say that we're business. And people identify what business friendly is in different ways. But business friendliness is honestly, is your legislator saying, okay, well, look, you need this to, you know, to hire more people or to innovate or to create more products. What can we do to stay out of the way?
And the willingness, whether they pass legislation or, or agree or disagree. Isn't as important as they're willing to listen. And when I talk to these companies that move here, they just, they, they can't believe that, Hey, when I call a legislator, he or she will actually sit down with me and ask me what I'm looking for.
The same thing with the colleges and the universities. I mean, you look at UT is one of the best at collaborating with the private sector and entrepreneurs and you, I mean, you see that in rice and Baylor and SMU, it's, it's prevalent in this state. And again, these are just things. That we as Texans, I'll say we as Texans, cause I lived here almost 30 years.
Take your take for granted. But when other companies move here and they see that symbiotic relationship, it's a game changer for them. And I would say NASA is probably the best example of that. And if you talk to NASA, now they say. That their main goal is to let the private sector know that they are available for collaboration because they're, you know, the quintessential quasi government entity.
Michael Scharf: Exactly. Now we've talked a little bit about land. You mentioned briefly the the potential for the railway that's I guess plan right now for between Dallas and Houston and coming from California, we have. Sordid history and poor history with high speed rail, but this has got to be more privately funded.
So I think it's going to work. Let's talk about infrastructure in general. Are we going to be able to keep up with the needs of how fast Texas is growing?
Ed Curtis: Only if we embrace innovation and what I mean by innovation is drone delivery of medical products from Baylor to Midland. You know, embracing smart cities and autonomous vehicles and Elon, Musk's boring a holes through the entire state of Texas to get somewhere without having to sit in traffic.
Like I truly feel that that is real. I'm not going to say it's the only way, but that's why you see blue origin and apple and all these companies moving here because they see that opportunity. The open-mindedness and the entrepreneurial spirit of, of Texans opened to that idea. And and, and, and these companies are investing in it.
So that's, I just feel it's going to be, you know, the Jetsons in Texas. I don't know how that's going to look, but if there's any place that's going to happen, I truly believe it's going to be. Because of the regulatory environment and, and now the intellectual capital that's moving here in droves.
Michael Scharf: It's interesting because I've told the story a lot, Texas today feels to me like California.
When I was growing up in the sixties, the openness, the aggressiveness, we built freeways in Southern California. All throughout the sixties and into the seventies. And the same kind of attitude is what I'm seeing here in Texas. And it's great to, to see that and be part of that. And you've been here a lot longer than I have, but I'm a Texan now, that's it.
So we've, we've, I've adopted that. So we've talked about a couple of big ideas. What are the other big ideas that we're going to have to come up with to enable Texas to meet the needs of Texans going forward?
Ed Curtis: Well, I I'm, you know, this is what I'm beating the street these days around Texas is to really try to build that bridge between our regional market.
And I, I feel like, again, there's so much happening in Dallas Fort worth that people in Austin are, have no idea are happening. And if you think about, you know, the unicorns and the startups in Austin and the fortune 500 companies in Dallas and in Fort worth and putting those, you know, those companies together, and it's not that it's not happening, it's happening every single day, but it's not ingrained in our ecosystem.
I mean, if you look at. The Austin ecosystem within the, and the startup community, whether it's the capital factory or mass challenge or, or UT, it's just, it's, it's unbelievable. It's so powerful. And I'd say Capitol Factory is probably doing the best with kind of sprinkling their, their message throughout the, throughout the state.
But I think a more a more big picture approach to the regions, really speaking together and collaborating together, I think is a. It's really gonna be our road to success going forward.
Jason Scharf: We've seen, I think it's come up with quite a few episodes, these kind of new super region concepts, the the super Southeast, the Heartland you know, the fly over country used in a positive manner now kind of the Texas triangle.
One of the theories that I have is. There's a stronger possibility. I think for these super regions, when it's within a single state border, just from you brought up the legislature quite a bit, I think once you credit cross state borders, that becomes a little more difficult for that kind of collaboration.
So when we think about the Texas triangle, though, let's kind of go to its composite parts. What do you see as the kind of unique super powers industries for each of the nodes?
Ed Curtis: Oh my gosh. I mean, see, I mean, it's there's so much overlap that you, you, did it blow your mind? I mean, what's, I mean, let's start with west Texas, which we all know is, you know, think of as, you know, oil and gas and tumbleweed and you know, and that's, and that's it.
But a lot of food distribution companies, companies, of course. You know, space cheaper land these, these companies that are in low margin businesses, they just can't afford to have a facility like that in an Austin. That is just, it's just, it's too, too expensive. So you look, and there's a lot of innovation happening in that Midland Odessa.
You know, Lubbock though, that region is they're collaborating a lot together or they're doing a lot of biotech research really, really interesting things happening and happening out there. So again, processing food and making the things that will, will feed all about us. And that's all happening at west Texas.
Of course, the oil and gas in the fracking is huge, but you know, we already know that. And of course the wind energy and solar energy, and then you kind of move you net and then you look at east tech. And it's, it's basically the forest of Texas and that's where all of the, you know, the wood and the manufacturing products that are being used to make all these houses that we need are occurring out in east Texas.
And you see a lot of companies in construction and heavy manufacturing looking at east Texas, because again, it's very inexpensive. It's, you know, they've got all that, all the wood they could possibly need out there as well. And I, I bring up those two because those are the ones we don't really hear much about.
Of course you bring in the border and you know, everything that's happening on the border, in the Southern border, whether it's through the ports of Corpus Christi and Houston and El Paso and Laredo, my gosh, I just spoke to Laredo this week. There's so much going on down there with the investment from space X, that's that's literally changing their economy.
And then of course, You know, you've got Dallas Fort worth is, is among many things, a financial center with Schwab and fidelity and all of the big banks, chase and bank of America is really turning into a financial center for Texas Forth Worth. I mean, we hear about Fort worth every day. They're attracting lots of technology companies with you know, the center of gravity.
They're really being that Alliance, Texas airport. Which is now turning into the center of the bet. Basically the best inland port in the country is centered around what's happening at Alliance. And then you take the technology and Austin, and then San Antonio's proximity to Mexico. You just put all of these pieces together.
I'm probably confusing things, but you can see the overlap, whether it's in the healthcare industry or the education industry. It's it's all right here, you know, in our State.
Jason Scharf: No, it's funny. And slightly selfish bias here. And the fact that, you know, I'm heavy in the life sciences industry, that's kinda my, my day job and the things that I've done.
And I find it interesting when I watched, I think it was the original why Texas vision, you know, trail the two minute video when they talked about each of the different, you know, points of the triangle. And I was like San Antonio biotech you know, Houston healthcare. Austin life science amongst that I'm like, okay, so now we're just grasping it using different words for the same , because of the difference in these.
And you can see that kind of easily kind of that, that collaboration that can go along that corridor, you know, and obviously I've heard a lot about what's happening at you know, Texas a and M too, we call it in college station. So you really do have that overlap and you have companies like, but I wonder if we'll see this more and you may have examples of it.
You had like colossal bio-sciences, which is a, you know, to the company trying to bring back the whooly mamouth . And I found it really fascinating when they're like, okay, we're going to put the software part of the company. That's doing CRISPR editing. That's going to be an Austin. Our hardware development and wet lab is going to be up in Dallas.
They made a conscious decision to kind of put themselves in different parts of the node. I suspect we'll see more of that and say like, this is where this particular talent is. This is, and we can have this kind of digital collaboration across the triangle, but we were close enough. You're right. That's a couple hours this way.
Or, you know, an hour by plane.
Ed Curtis: Jason you're exactly right. But it takes somebody like Ben, who knows people in those areas. Right. I mean, he's, he's got a network throughout the state that he could pick up the phone and call these people and Again, it's all about who, you know, I don't care where you live.
It's all about who, you know, and they, each of their regions have their own cliques and their own people of, or, you know, bleeding the, the economies in each region and, you know, connecting those people with people like Ben lamb, who can create a startup out of anything and leveraged all of the resources in the state is.
It's a good, it's a cool story, you know.
Jason Scharf: it Is.... And I think it's that kind of collaboration. It's interesting, as you talked about, you know, Dallas and Fort worth as kind of separate entities, you know, a lot of times from someone who's not originally from Texas, it kind of was all lumped together. And it's interesting seeing now on the more local region, that same thing starting to occur, where Austin and San Antonio are separate regions, but the, what do you call it?
ASA? Whatever this kind of mega region starts creeping more and more together. And you had, you know, recently the chamber chair of the Austin chamber said, and I'm quoting here. My top priority for 2022 is to initiate a joint super-regional partnership between the eight county San Antonio region and our five county Austin region.
We should find ways to collaborate with our neighbors to form a mutually beneficial economic development corridor, or super region in central Texas. So you see these kinds. The nodes are themselves getting more cooperative and bigger and just thoughts on how that kind of affects our local region.
Ed Curtis: Yeah.
And it's, it's, it starts with leadership. It starts with you know, Jenna and Laura sitting down and saying, yeah, Let's figure this out. You know, they both have kind of the airport issues that, you know, unfortunately Dallas has Dallas and Fort worth have figured out, even though they always fight over, you know, whose name is first Dallas from Fort worth.
But isn't it exactly right? It's w it's getting this, these next generation of leaders and look, I mean, Laura and Jenna, Jenna are young, and so it's a new generation and it's a new mindset. It's the, the new guard, which is very promising for me. And then you bring in people that are new to the state that have, you know, no prejudice or no hate for each other, because they're just new to the state.
I think all of that's going to be very helpful. I remember in Dallas, Fort worth may Rawlings and Betsy price mayor. When they first met, they basically said, look, let's stop the war and let's start networking together. Let's start going on recruiting trips together. And and that really paid off well for that region, you know, but economic development is funded locally and that is the challenge and tax dollars that city residents agreed to pay to fund corporate relocation and expansion is local.
It comes from the local school. At it comes from, you know, the, the local residents and they demand that money be used for their schools in their district and not necessarily the region. So it's you know, it's, it's a challenge, but I agree with you that the regional approach is gonna, everyone's gonna win in the end with
Michael Scharf: Let's turn a little bit towards the future. What are these super regions look like five and six years from now or 10 years from now? Is it really ASA?
Ed Curtis: , I think, I think the transportation system is going to be a big part. I do. I think it's whether it's the high-speed rail or whether it's you know, improving our highways or quite honestly, it's, you know, the three of us getting out a podcast without having to be in an office.
And we don't, we don't live that far from each other. So, I mean, we could have easily done it in person. It's easy to get two or three things done in a day without having to meet in person. So I, I think the fact that we're, we can leverage the technology. So we don't have to be commuting so much that combined with the you know, the, a new and improved transportation system throughout the state, I think is gonna, it's going to help that tremendously because look, if you could go to Houston, And you lived in Dallas and there was a really cool restaurant and you could go, you would go.
Michael Scharf: Absolutely.
And until you can get there really quickly, you're not going to go. I mean, you're just not, so I think that's going to be a big part of it.
What does the future look like for Y Texas
Ed Curtis: . That's a great question. Well, you know, we're, we're, we have evolved like everyone did through the pandemic by realizing that our core constituents.
Companies that are new to Texas. And those that are interested in those who are moving to Texas, which is pretty much everyone in Texas, the way to continue that dialogue. And that conversation is through a means of video and audio and just getting people talking and conversing. And it changed the game for us because we were able to get people that we would never get on a Zoom call because you know, they're either too busy or you couldn't get people from Dallas and Houston on the same panel.
One person would have to fly to another location. And that's, that's changed the game for us. And I think for us to continue the dialogue, to get these companies connected and informed is going to be through media and digital. And I think you know, we host one event a year. Now it's a big annual event, which we're hosting this year in Dallas, in September.
And most of our other communication and networking is going to be through video and digital. And that's, that's where I see the future for, for why Texas.
Michael Scharf: Well, we always close with the same question. I'm going to expand at this time. Ed Curtis, what's next, Texas. And what's next Austin.
Ed Curtis: I think what's next.
Austin is we are going to be, and I would put San Antonio into this, the automotive capital of the world. I think we're gonna surpass Detroit. In many regards, I think Tesla is going to be a big part of that. And if you pay attention to the vendors and suppliers that are moving here to get close to Tesla, to pay attention to it, they are coming.
You know, honestly, Texas is a whole, I think onshoring and manufacturing and making things, whether it's medicine or whether it's the next big semiconductor chip, it's all happening here. So I think making things in Texas, and I think for Austin, it's you know, the automotive sector for sure.
Well, we build as one of the superpowers without a doubt.
Michael Scharf: Ed Curtis, founder, CEO of Y Texas. Thank you so much for being on the Austin next podcast today.
Ed Curtis: Thank you for having me.
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