Facebook is coming to Austin with plans to create 200 jobs, according to the Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office. Perry announced today that the state would offer $1.4 million in incentives through the state’s Emerging Technology Fund Texas Enterprise Fund if Facebook chooses Austin its first big U.S. expansion location. That’s right — if.
The Austin expansion and the ETF TEF funding is conditioned on a city incentive package worth $200,000. The city will vote in March on whether or not it will approve the incentives, likely before South by Southwest, which starts on March 12. If all goes well with the city approval, a Facebook spokeswoman says the company could open an Austin office in May for its online operations team. Meanwhile city documents and Facebook say that the company is still exploring other locales.
Facebook, which employs 1,200 people and has 400 million registered users, is following in the tradition of several Silicon Valley companies by locating deep in the heart of Texas. Google actually opened an Austin office in 2008, but then backpedaled a few months later. Intel, Borland Software and AMD have all had public Austin expansion plans, sometimes followed by equally public contractions.
However, I’m irritated by the use of incentives to draw Facebook to Austin, even as I realize that it could help our local tech community. I feel like Austin is a strong enough contender to stand among the top cities for a Facebook’s expansion given our talent, lower cost of living and “hip” vibe, and I hate the arms race and entitlement among corporations that the practice of offering incentives perpetrates.
Anyhow, welcome to Austin, Facebook. As a tip, don’t try to build anything above the Edwards aquifer, and you’ll be fine.