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Austin area stays on track as a growing hot spot

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Shanghai, Istanbul, Monte Carlo.

Singapore, San Paulo, Austin.

Interesting company.

Just southeast of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at a place called Elroy, earthmovers are fashioning a new high-end entertainment venue for a city that often revolves around entertainment.

This project is designed to bring international Formula One racing and tens of thousands of fans to Austin in 2012, putting the Texas capital in the company of 19 cities in Europe, Australia, Asia and the Americas.

It's a curious project for Austin. Formula One racing is the epitome of globe-trotting glam, which is not what Austin is all about.

Austin is a big city wearing a small city suit. Big talents, big ideas, big events and accomplishments, all carried in an unassuming way that belies its size.

The five-county Austin metro area covers a broad expanse of Central Texas. Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties are about 40 percent larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Our metro area population is 1.7 million, which is larger than any of a dozen states. Austin's population is larger than all but 13 cities in the country, but it is fourth largest in Texas, behind Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

What defines Austin, however, is not size. It is the richness and diversity of what is here.

The favorable climate. The natural beauty of the Hill Country, the rivers, streams and the Highland Lakes. The parks, trails and protected natural areas.

This is a seat of government. It's home to national-caliber higher education. It's a breeding ground for entrepreneurs in many fields, including medicine and technology.

This is a cradle for outdoor recreation — hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, boating, climbing, cycling, running — and for thriving arts and theater communities.

Music and film routinely put Austin on national and international stages.

Austin is a broad urban landscape, increasingly dense, complex and diverse.

Austin-area residents are regarded nationally as young, creative, highly educated, tech savvy, independent and entrepreneurial. Locally, some area residents are considered weird, a characteristic that is celebrated.

Overall, there is a quality of life factor, that routinely helps Austin make national "Best" lists.

This section is an introduction to the Austin metro area and what the area has to offer. It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive.