General Motors announced last week it will build an IT Innovation Center in Austin and hire as many as 500 to work at the facility, which is expected to be in the Tech Ridge area of Northeast Austin, according to the Austin American-Statesman. GM, which makes the fifth highest revenues in the nation, will employ software developers, project managers, database experts, business analysts and other information technology professionals at the new center, it said in a statement.
Some technology professionals say the GM plan is part of a trend in Austin. In March, Apple announced it would hire 3,600 employees and build a new facility in Austin. Samsung also announced an additional multi-billion-dollar investment in its existing chip manufacturing center in Austin. Randall Mott, GM vice president and chief information officer, said a skilled workforce is already in place in Austin.
“The next generation of IT workers, the talented visionaries we want contributing at the Innovation Center, are being trained at top computer science schools in Texas and surrounding states,” Mott said in the company’s statement.
UT’s computer science graduate program ranked eighth in the 2010 U.S. News and World Report college rankings among computer science departments including Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technoloy, Carnegie Mellon and Princeton. UT’s Computer Science department chair Bruce Porter said the local industry growth has picked up in the past two years.
“During the economic downturn, frequently students would need to go to Silicon Valley or New York City or somewhere else for an internship or a job,” Porter said. “So the growth in Austin is going to make a big difference to our students.”
UT’s computer science program is not only competitive but large, with more than 1,300 undergraduates. The department routinely sends students to intern and work for Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, Porter said.
Porter said the technology industry operates as an ecosystem made up of universities, companies and venture capitalists.
“You need all those things together to make a community as vibrant as what we have in Austin right now,” Porter said.
Tech companies tend to gravitate to one area, Roger Kay, founder of tech analysis company Endpoint Technologies Associates, said. He said Dell was one of the first major tech companies in Central Texas. Dell currently has its headquarters in Round Rock.
“Dell is very much a trickle-down company, in that secondary and tertiary levels of the company got rich,” Kay said.
This company’s success spawned growth in Austin, he said. The growth attracted big companies like General Motors and Apple, and it also attracted entrepreneurs looking to invest in tech startups, Kay said.
Tommy Nguyen, a UT corporate communications and computer science alumnus, works as a software consultant for BP3, a technology consulting company. Nguyen said he was happy to find a tech industry job that allowed him to stay in Austin and use his computer science skills. Nguyen interned at BP3, which employs up to 30 people, during his last year at UT and got the job after graduation.
“We’re actively trying to look for college recruits,” Nguyen said. “We’re one of the fastest-growing companies in Central Austin.”
Printed on Friday, September 14, 2012 as: Austin tech expanding