Austin entrepreneurs remain optimistic despite slow economy


Andrew Torrey

Small business owner Orlando Arriaga changes the letters on his restaurant’s marquee Monday afternoon. Despite a struggeling economy, Texas remains the second in entrepreneurial activity in the country.

Desiree Lopez

Driving through Austin, small businesses ranging from the food trailers on South Congress to the high-end fashion boutiques line the streets, and a new report shows Austinites are continuing to venture out into the small business world in spite of the slow economy.

Although entrepreneurship levels have dipped in 2011, they are still above pre-recession levels according to a March report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In 2011, 0.32 percent of adults created a business per month in the United States, which translates into about 543,000 new businesses created each month for the year. The study found that 440 in 100,000 adults in Texas are creating businesses, and the state is tied for second with California for highest entrepreneurial activity in the nation, putting Texas 0.12 percent above the national average.

The Foundation also singled out the University in another report for having a rich culture in technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.

The University continues to expand its resources and in 2009 the UT Austin Professional Development Center joined with the City of Austin’s Small Business Development program to offer a low-cost training program to small businesses in the area.

Small business owner Orlando Arriaga grew up in Austin around the corner from where he opened his first Taco Shack stand on 44th Street and Medical Parkway. He believes the University and City’s partnership for small business training is good because it will open up the doors for prospective small business like his.

He remarked that the collaboration is “a good thing because Austin seems to be a thinking tank for small businesses.” Arriaga believes that just as small businesses are affected by the economy, the economy is in turn affected by small businesses like his.

Arriaga said that small businesses “turn the motor; mom and pop shops make [the economy] run. There was one McDonald’s once, there was one Taco Bell, Facebook began with one friend — someone has to start with the idea and it goes from there.”