Type “Texas pride” into Google and you’ll find a whole range of businesses – from mortgage lenders to septic tank maintenance to barbecue establishments. And it is this pride that is clearly on display when Texas governor Greg Abbott talks about his state’s tech capabilities and chances to become a magnet for foreign investment. “Tech is exploding in Texas and is already big. Texas big,” he says.
Texans are known for talking up their state, but when it comes to Texas’s tech sector, Mr Abbott has a point. The past two years alone have brought mega investments from companies such as Oracle, which is planning to build a 52,000 square metre campus in Austin, and Apple, which will invest more than $300m in its own campus, also in Austin.
Overall, according to Forbes estimates, Austin increased tech job numbers by 41.1% between 2001 and 2013, making the city the national leader for employment in tech-related sectors. And Mr Abbott is keen to stress that tech in Texas does not end with the state capital. “Austin is our tech Mecca, but Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio are quickly becoming tech hubs too,” he says. In the case of Houston and San Antonio this means life sciences, given that Houston’s Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world and San Antonio is home to the busiest military medical centre in the US.
Yet, while investments such as Oracle’s and Apple’s make headlines, when it comes to bringing in FDI in the software and IT industry, Texas still has some way to go. According to fDi Markets, a cross-border investments monitor, the state attracted 106 greenfield projects between 2010 and 2015, behind California (458 projects), New York (335 projects) and Massachusetts (112 projects).
So what makes Mr Abbott believe Texas can compete with California on tech investments? “Business climate,” he says. “Ours simply happens to be superior to California’s. We have no income tax and no corporate tax. Not a small matter for startups that have to be careful with their spending. And in terms of venture capital accessible to startups, we are able to match if not exceed California or New York. With certain industries, such as oil and gas, you have to have natural resources to be a leader. But when it comes to tech, it’s a level playing field. And we have what it takes to win.”
Previously: Attorney General of Texas, Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court