A lot of people say that Raleigh and Austin are comparable cities. They have a number of clear similarities including a talented workforce, great quality of life, strong employment growth rate, and the cost of doing business. What is harder to quantify, though, is how the cultures of both cities are similar, as well. While the trip to SXSW was a mission to share the Raleigh story, the team also took some time to explore how this city has embraced its popularity and adjusted to growth.
During our time in Austin, we could see the visible marks of a city in rapid stages of growth. There were new hotels, high-rise office buildings, and improvements to existing infrastructure everywhere. To accommodate the influx of residents and visitors, Austin has undergone massive efforts to promote alternative travel with dedicated bike lanes being installed throughout town. Cyclists had a mix of personally-owned bikes and the brightly colored rideshare bikes that have been so popular in dense urban areas. The city also is walkable and friendly to pedestrians looking to get around quickly.
The South Congress and Rainey Street neighborhoods made us feel close to home with plenty of food options, entertainment, and greenspace. Much like the developments around Person Street and the Warehouse District in Raleigh, Austin’s surrounding neighborhoods seamlessly blend the urban and suburban, offering a quiet atmosphere with access to all of the city’s best amenities.
Austin’s culture has its own brand of southern hospitality. Locals are laid back and friendly. The food is delicious and the portion sizes are generous. There also are endless options for a quick coffee or afternoon dessert. It is evident that the city had made ample preparations to receive the tens of thousands of visitors to attend SXSW. Thanks in large part to the welcoming atmosphere and smart city planning, we were able to see some of the best parts of Austin in our short time there. Much like the adjustments Raleigh makes when festivals or conferences are in town, the city was welcoming and accepting.
The SXSW Interactive Festival allowed our delegation to tell the story of Raleigh in a unique way. We showcased products from makers across the city. Visitors not only got to hear why Raleigh is special, but also got to taste, drink, and take home some of the things that make our city great. Nearby at other booths, we made friends with representatives from cities across the nation and the globe. We talked about Raleigh with professionals from Austin, Washington D.C., and places like Mexico, Ireland, and London. This allowed for a moment of self-reflection on how peer cities view Raleigh’s steady growth and prominence.
Our trip to SXSW was a tremendous opportunity. We represented Raleigh at the booth, participated in networking events all across town, and even found time for panels that spoke toward points of interest for our community. This was an incredibly inspiring trip to Austin and was time well spent.
Many thanks to our regional partners, the City of Raleigh, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Raleigh Convention Center. Without them, this trip would not have happened. An additional thanks to our makers and special guests, including House of Swank, Videri Chocolate, Trophy Brewing, Hail Mary, Larry’s Coffee, Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Cindy Whitehead, and The Veldt. These makers and representatives brought the incredible culture of Raleigh to Austin and we were proud to share our story with thousands of attendees.