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The end of an era: After 40 years, Neal Spelce retires from the weekly Austin update

Posted by Jenny Carroll on Saturday, April 6th, 2019 at 2:23pm.

Our favorite local economist, Neil Spelce, is retiring from his post as Austin's premier economic soothsayer after 40 years of weekly newsletters and we are sad to see his tenure come to an end. Starting in 1979, the articles have consisted of a four-page report mailed out to all the subscribers week after week, 50 weeks a year. In 2000 they converted to an email distribution system while still providing printed copies for those who preferred the old way. It's incredible to think that the consistency of delivery could be maintained by one man for so long but his reliably delivered product was matched by its accuracy in detail and prognostication.  

 When the Neal Spelce Austin Letter (NSAL) first began, resources for detailed economic issues were limited. The NSAL took the lead and covered industries new to Austin, how the University system impacted the area, how the influx of new residents affected everything from roads to the local tax base and so much more. He predicted upturns and downturns and while he wasn't 100% accurate all the time, he nailed it, with a good sense of humor, most of the time. 

-Texas is still a powerhouse, Improving throughout 2018, with GDP of 6% at the end of last year.  3.5-5% is healthy.  Guess what Austin MSA is? 6.9%! 

-Real estate sales were stronger than expected in both residential and commercial across the state, and our population and job growth are both expanding.

-Job growth in the Austin area led all the major metros in the state, and we are the second fastest growing metro in the US. 

-Consumer confidence is high, and the Austin area has that “something” that attracts people. 

We think that’s great news, and hope you do, too!! Below is a snippet from the final edition, Volume 40 Number 50, and we hope that you enjoy a little of his wit and humor as he discussed the growth of Austin since the early days of the publication and his role as Austin's economist for the last several decades.

"A major takeaway from 40 years of writing each week about the Austin economy, is the unassailable understanding that UTAustin is the prime engine for the economy for the Austin area. And it will continue its impact in the foreseeable future. As we reported years ago, “If you want to stop growth in Austin, move The University of Texas to Amarillo!” It’s not just the number of faculty, staff, and students who spread dollars around the area. We mentioned UTAustin was a key player when the tech surge took off in 1983 with its role in landing MCC. But, goodness, look at the recent establishment of UTAustin’s Dell Medical School and its growing influence in health care for the area, as well as its economic impact. We could go on and on.

Consider UT’s role in the highly-acclaimed Austin workforce. The top-rated, and substantially-funded, engineering, computer science, mathematics, etc. departments at UTAustin turn out supremely qualified grads. And, they are instantly scarfed-up by the blue-ribbon tech firms that continue to expand in Austin. Other institutions such as the Austin Community College also turn out tech talent, but nothing of the magnitude of UTAustin.

Now let’s take a moment for some personal observations and reflections. There has been a sense of community collaboration when it comes to issues of importance, despite loudly-voiced political differences from time to time. Also, when conflict surfaces in the public discourse, there has also been an underlying tolerance that seems to set Austin apart. No matter where Austinites fall on the political spectrum, nor where they stand on divisive issues, or even the debate over the best Barbecue or Breakfast Tacos, there is a strong feeling that Austin is the best place for them to be. And it has many times brought a smile, when things get a bit heated, to realize that much of the heat is generated because of Austinites’ reverence for this place they call home. It’s rare to find residents in many other cities who have such a sense of attachment to their hometown.

One of the personal pleasures we have derived is the deadline discipline to sit down each week, look out the window, and think about Austin – what just happened, what is happening, what is likely to happen, and then try to make some sense of all things Austin. Introspectively, it’s kind of interesting that having been trained and immersed in broadcast journalism off and on for decades, we turned to the printed word for the last 40 years. But when you think about it, it’s all the same – just a different delivery mechanism.

As a result, we may have a few withdrawal pangs. If so, we will probably scratch that itch by posting insights on Linked In. Because there are some things that just cry out for context."

Reach out to us if you want a more detailed area report by sector, or some real estate information specific to your property, but from the real estate perspective, it looks like we can expect another five-plus more strong years for growth and our real estate market. Click here to be connected to Neal's LinkedIn account if you would like to see some of the future insights he will bring about our town. 

Thank you for your service to our great city, Mr. Spelce. Your weekly insights will be greatly missed.

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