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Austin Suburbs Use SXSW To Promote Moving South And Southeast

Jimmy Maas
The "BEST Partnership" booth at SXSW promotes development and tourism in Bastrop, Elgin and Smithville.

It's not uncommon for cities, states – even countries – to highlight their workforce, investment opportunities, or visitor and tourism offerings at South By Southwest.

There are booths for places like Mexico, Ireland ... and Bastrop.

“You know, there's what, however many thousands of people that fly into Austin for this two-week event, right?” said Sarah O'Brien, the hospitality and downtown director for the City of Bastrop. “And they get to the airport and then take a left, and they go to downtown Austin. And what we're trying to let them know is there's opportunities to take a right.”

SXSW has helped fuel the growth of Austin and its suburbs – or at least that's the annual fear for Austinites already stuck on the city's congested roads. But now those surrounding communities are using the mega-conference to drive visitors and investment toward them.

O'Brien has been working a booth with the “BEST Partnership” on the SXSW trade show floor. “BEST” stands for Bastrop, Elgin and Smithville, Texas, and she can tell you all about the restaurants, parks and music venues in those towns. But O'Brien is also looking to sell them to specific visitors.

“We also talk to attendees who are with major corporations that are looking for areas in Texas,” she said. “Everyone knows that Austin is expensive, and we've got some great properties in Bastrop. And so, it's been a really beneficial show.”

Just 25 minutes down I-35 and a couple booths over on the convention center floor, the Greater San Marcos Partnership is trying to deliver the “close to Austin” message, too.

When you think of San Marcos, you might picture a smaller town in orbit around Austin. But Ashley Gossen, vice president of marketing and communications for the Greater San Marcos Partnership, suggests folks shift that center a little farther south.

“The Greater San Marcos area is the anchor of the Austin-San Antonio innovation corridor,” she said.

In addition to San Marcos, her group represents Lockhart, Kyle and Wimberley. She tells prospective employers about the more affordable options south of Austin.

“One of the biggest things we're hearing at the festival is Austin is becoming quite tight on the housing level," Gossen said. "And here, what we're talking about is just 25 minutes south you get most of this. You have access to the cachet of Austin, but you don't have that price tag. You still get to escape and get that small-town feel.”

Bastrop, Elgin, Smithville, Lockhart, San Marcos and Kyle will continue making their SXSW pitches through tomorrow, in hopes that companies and workers will move South and Southeast of Austin.

Jimmy is the assistant program director, but still reports on business and sports every now and then. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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