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Austin's quality of life attracts the young, educated workforce that influences companies to relocate and expand in the city, but there's still work to be done—from improving infrastructure to diversifying the economy. That's the word from the Austin market experts speaking at Bisnow?s first Austin event on Tuesday.

schmoozing at Bisnow State of the Austin Market event

Investment in the future will pay off for Austin's economy and keep it growing, says Steve LeBlanc, senior managing director for private markets for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. While the city has phenomenal restaurants (we're partial to The Magnolia on Congress), another culinary school would be beneficial, he says, and UT could use a medical school. Also, yuppies want the best education for their children making schools a priority for the city. HPI Office Partner Sam Houston agrees that a medical school at UT is one of the top priorities for the region as part of a diversification of the economy. Riding the tech base wave up and down has made him a little seasick.

Bisnow Austin event panel
Steve (in the middle) adds that expanding transportation through mass transit will cost money (and probably lose it, too), but it's an investment in the future. ?We need to do it now; not 10 to 15 years from now,? he says. Andy (second from left) says the city's already behind the curve when it comes to transportation. As the population grows, so will the traffic congestion; and Austin doesn't want to wind up like Houston and Dallas. But, without some sort of improvement, it could choke the city's growth, he says. Commercial Texas prez Mike Kennedy (far right) agrees. When tenants evaluate potential spaces, if the highway is just as crowded at 3pm as 7am (going both ways), it will impact that submarket. Growth will move to different areas because of it, he says. 
Mike Webster and Ryan Therrell

Beck?s Mike Webster trekked down I-35 from Dallas to join Austin colleague Ryan Therrell for the event. Ryan tells us Beck?s starting the Dell Children's Hospital expansion and Austin Children's Museum in Q4 and the Junior League HQ in 2012.

Charlie Betts, Allison Wait and Bob Anderson

We snapped Downtown Austin Alliance?s Charlie Betts with J. Robert Anderson Landscape Architects? Allison Wait and Bob Anderson. Bob tells us the firm designed the Wildflower Center and is now working on two San Antonio projects: Trinity University and a USSA apartment project. The firm's also working on a $40M academic building in the quadrangle at Texas A&M.

Chad Smith

We caught a glimpse of these boots from across the room and found Jackson Walker urban cowboy/attorney Chad Smith from the Austin office. Chad says transactions have picked up this year. He's seeing lots of buyers from outside of Austin and deals for everything from retail centers to golf courses and multifamily. There's also more lender involvement and conventional financing available.

John Kirk, Gary Farmer, Cooper Drenner

Post-event, we snapped Skanska Commercial Development's John Kirk with event sponsor Heritage Title Co of Austin's Gary Farmer and Cooper Drenner. Gary is all over Austin with community service ranging from serving the Greater Austin Economic Development Corp to helping lead Opportunity Austin, which has led to job creations and money pouring back into the city's economy. We're thinking he's got a key to the city somewhere in his pocket.

Ray Bell and Ben Christian

Olican Design's Ray Bell, here with Blackwell Asset Management's Ben Christian, says the architecture and design firm is having a great year. It's specialty is seniors living and healthcare, and ?I'm not likely to see too many recessions in my lifetime with seniors living.? On the equity investment side of things, Ben says there's more product in the marketplace, but pricing is still pretty high. If the government ever releases more assets, prices will drop.