First impressions mean a lot. As soon as I got off the plane at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport I could tell this place was different from nearly all the mid-size US cities we have visited since the beginning of the Great Recession. It was close to midnight and the tarmac was crowded with aircraft parked nearly wing-tip to wing-tip. The morning rush was going to be huge. Business travelers would be on the move. Make no mistake - find a city where businesspeople are travelling and I'll show you a city where money is being made. Welcome to Jobstown, USA.
A study by the Brookings Institution and the London School of Economics ranks Austin 26 out of 150 world cities in its ability to recover from the recession well ahead of places like Dallas (39), New York (77), San Francisco (129) and Las Vegas (146). No other US city is experiencing faster job growth than Austin (2.4 percent per year).
Over the course of three days, CBS News visited a number of firms to try and figure out what's behind Austin's success as a job generator and if there is anything other American cities can learn from their example.
Here are some things we noticed right away: The place is loaded with young talent. There is venture capital pouring in from all over the world (especially the Persian Gulf). There is a sense that anything is possible. And finally, there is openness to new ideas - no matter how off the wall. In many ways, Austin has the same feel as Paolo Alto, California did as it was morphing into what the world knows as "Silicon Valley."
There are negatives in Austin too, for example an infrastructure that's not close to being ready for the crush of people that's flooding the area (avoid the Loop during rush hour at all costs!). The town also remains largely dependent on Texas state government and education for its job base (22 percent of jobs, versus 18% across all U.S. metro areas).
Still, we were left with a sense that Austin represents a model many American cities may need to follow if they are to fully recover from the recession and be competitive in the global economy.
From a tiny toy company struggling to get on its feet to an international tech giant creating thousands of new jobs, CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason gives you an inside look at Jobstown, USA tonight on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. We invite you to watch.