McCombs School of Business says Texas and Austin ‘lead the country in growth’ as dean is optimistic about 2020


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Business leaders, economists, investment experts and college alumni rubbed elbows and discussed their perspectives of the new year Thursday morning at the 8th Annual 2020 Business Outlook Austin.

Austin is one of four big cities in Texas where the event is held. The others include: Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

Business leaders, economists, McCombs alumni and more mingle during breakfast (Todd Bailey/KXAN)
McCombs Dean Jay Hartzell speaks in front of an audience of business leaders, etc. (Todd Bailey/KXAN)

“It is fun to kick off here because more of our students can attend,” Jay Hartzell, Dean of McCombs School of Business said. He along with CEOs and others spoke on Crum Auditorium’s stage at the University of Texas’ Rowling Hall inside McCombs.

The series covers three main topics:

  • Data analytics
  • Investments
  • The Texas Economy
Rowling Hall entrance (Todd Bailey/KXAN)

McCombs considers 2019 a historic year in their press release. Last year set records for the longest economic expansion in the United States, according to the school.

“The big thing we all look for in the economy is growth,” Hartzell said. “An expansion is just a scenario where we’re experiencing more growth. More job creation, more money flows, more business creation.”

He considers it a remarkable run of continued growth, and now, they’re looking ahead to 2020. However, there is some uncertainty.

“We’re coming out of an interesting year from a trade perspective, so everyone has been talking about ‘what’s the role of international trade in growth?’ and you know, I woke up this morning to headlines around the signed pact with China. That’s one of the sources of uncertainty,” Hartzell said.

Another source is the 2020 election.

“People are wondering what that’s going to mean for the macro-economy,” Hartzell said. “Are people going to wait and hold back on investment or spending because they’re trying to see what or how that resolves itself?”

Despite speculation, Hartzell is “optimistic about 2020.” He believes Texas and Austin have been “very blessed.”

Texas has, in many ways, lead the country in growth and Austin within the state has been largely at the forefront of that. We all experience it everyday on the roads, in our housing prices, but also in the job market. You look at where our businesses are going… it’s just been tremendous. I think we’re all very fortunate.


He does acknowledge the growing pains of the city that comes with the boom but believes the ache comes with advantages.

It’s easy to think about what Austin was in the 80s or 90s and bemoan some of these changes but this is all byproducts of success and there are a lot of pluses to it. We have more amenities, more things going on. I think Austin is at the forefront of the national conversation around the best places and cities not only to live but also now for business.


Those attending focused on discussing a few key questions:

  • Where are we in the economic cycle?
  • What are the 2020 prospects for Texas’ economy?
  • How can businesses forecast investment opportunities and employ data analytics?

“Those questions are very central to how we all think about making decisions, so think about whether you’re a consumer and about what you might buy this year. Are you going to buy a new car? A new house? Big decisions you might be making. Companies have the same questions. Should they be hiring more? Should they be expanding their facilities?”

All of these will drive decision-making looking forward into the year.

For Hartzell, he personally loves being a part of the discussion because he can takeaway “nuggets” to apply to his role at the university.

“I can think about how to bring that into research or the classroom, or how we interact with our students,” Hartzell said.

His take on this year?

“I’m bullish on the overall U.S. economy but then you think about Texas in particular and Austin. I wouldn’t trade seats with many other people around the world today,” Hartzell said.

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