Artist's rendition of Fairmont hotel
  • Artist's rendition of Fairmont hotel
  • Image by hotelchatter.com
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As the Reader has been saying for years, convention centers are vastly overbuilt in the U.S. As a result, the centers have to slash prices, and lose money, to attract business. But expansions go ahead because the purpose of these centers is actually to boost business of nearby hotels. Thus, this is the quintessential corporate-welfare operation.

More proof comes from Austin, Texas, where San Diego-based Manchester Financial Group has built a huge convention center hotel. However, the hotel was delayed for many months. Hotel experts in Texas warned that the market was saturated in Austin; some recommended Manchester abort the project.

It went ahead. Now, as expected, the market is badly saturated. So, predictably, hoteliers are politicking for an expanded convention center. On March 14, hoteliers convened a meeting, lobbying for a bigger convention center. "We're turning away opportunities, and we're letting other cities capitalize on it," said one hotelier. Sound familiar? That is the same tune played by hoteliers in San Diego. Doug Manchester, son of San Diego hotel tycoon Doug (Papa Doug) Manchester, is heading the Austin project.

Young Manchester told the hoteliers that three hotels, including Manchester's Fairmont Austin, get most of their business from conventions."The reality is, everyone wants to come to Austin. But frankly, we can't accommodate them as the number one offering because we lack the [convention center] infrastructure." In short, the hotels need more corporate welfare.

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Comments

Visduh March 17, 2017 @ 10:19 p.m.

"The reality is, everyone wants to come to Austin." Why in the world would "everyone" want to visit Austin? It needs to be remembered that it is still Texas, no matter how much it has promoted its brand. And, if you've never been in the state, well, Texas is Texas, and that says it all. I'm part of everyone, and I don't care if I ever cross into that state again in my lifetime.

OK, let's say too many misguided folks want to visit Austin. If they loved the place so much, they would go there, conventions or no. So, maybe, just maybe, it isn't so loved after all. What brings them is meetings/conventions/shows that just aren't held elsewhere. If you want to attend some of them, then you have to go there. But are you going there because you love Austin? Probably not. Is it more pleasant as a destination than Houston or DFW? Yes, it probably is, but that proves nothing. This spiral of convention space, then a shortage of hotels, then a surfeit of hotels and more convention space is a character of capitalism. But capitalism doesn't require the taxpayers to build more convention space, or sports venues, or anything else.

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Ponzi March 17, 2017 @ 11:05 p.m.

I can't figure out Austin. I guess I'm a "weatherphobe." Being a native San Diegan, I am a confirmed sun taxpayer. I lived in Seattle for five years and developed sever depression. I moved back to San Diego. My father (divorced) moved to Austin (from L.A.) hen he retired. He was born in San Antonio, she he was returning "home." My relatives told me moving to Austin was snobbery because his 'home' was San Anton'

I made many visits (and I was appointed guardian because my father developed dementia) I got to learn a lot about Texas.

Austin, perhaps because of the universities, was emerging as a liberal city. There was diversity, a lot to do with H-1B tech workforce because Austin is the high tech magnet of Texas. The youth scene; SXSW, politics - Rick Perry, and the general appeal of Texas to businesses. Austin is a hotbed of tech companies like; IBM, Texas Instruments, Dell, HP, Apple.. more. It's an H1-B settlement. Austin has more Indian H-1B engineers than any other city in American, than Silicon Valley.

My frequent stays in Texas left me with the impression that Texas think they are another country. There is an intense loyalty to "Texas." Everything is bigger. And yes, the men are rough and big, there are some of the tallest women I have ever seen. The driver mostly have SUV's or big trucks with 2-wheeled read axles. Big gas guzzling cars. People drive ike crazy on the expressways.

But the worst part of Texas, and why I could never suffer living in Texas because of the heat. Almost the entire state is a miserable place to be in the summer. Which runs from May to October. Austin is over 100 degrees a day for over 200 days a year. I don't care about air conditioning, that king of heat makes me accept why Indians tolerate it. That's what they are used to. What genius Austin is. Get tax relief from the state while simultaneously knowing that the climate is ideal for Indians who find the weather familiar.

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Don Bauder March 18, 2017 @ 3:45 p.m.

Ponzi: One of my favorite Texas stories is about Apple. It was going to locate a big plant in Austin. Then Austin passed a measure that was offensive to homosexuals. (I don't think it was a state matter; I believe it was Austin, or its county.) In any case, Apple said, "OK, if that's the way you feel, we won't build a plant there." Austin capitulated. (Apple's CEO is openly homosexual, but this was long before he took over.) Best, Don Bauder

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Austin_Al May 22, 2017 @ 3:04 p.m.

For a "favorite story" you sure haven't bothered to get any of it right. Austin is the county seat of Travis County, which is heavily Democratic. The county to the north is Williamson County, which is Republican. You're probably thinking of what happened at the Williamson County Commissioners' Court when it turned down a million-dollar incentive package as a protest against Apple's health-benefit policy for same-sex couples. Ann Richards, who was governor at the time, proceeded to kick butt resulting in a reversal of the vote the following week. Apple accepted the incentive package. The reason Apple didn't expand into Williamson was due to their business floundering during the Sculley years. Travis County is the most gay-friendly county in Texas, being the only one to to vote against the 2005 Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Confusing Travis with Williamson is like confusing San Diego with Orange. Get a new favorite story.

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Don Bauder March 18, 2017 @ 2:56 p.m.

Visduh: Austin is the most civilized large metro area in Texas. But it is hotter than the hinges of hell in the summertime. What's important is that convention centers are so overbuilt in this country that convention planners can get cut-rate prices anywhere, including San Diego. Almost all the centers lose money because of the price slashes. They exist so hoteliers can make money. Despite this surfeit of space, cities keep expanding centers, or building new ones. Predictably, Austin hotels are begging for taxpayer welfare because hotels got so overbuilt. Manchester was warned. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi March 17, 2017 @ 11:14 p.m.

Anyway, I know Austin seems to be one of the hot places (no pun) but there are methods to the madness as well as serendipity in their popularity. The tolerance, diversity and university resources attract people from everywhere.

But Austin is not a panacea. I have friends and acquaintances that have sold homes in San Diego and relocated to Austin. The similar story is "how much home they could bu their compared to here."

Yer regardless of all that generous space and square footage, many have moved back to California. For some it was the weather, others the "social-political differences.

When I relocated to Seattle for work, I did my best to cope with the weather. It finally got to me after five years and I returned to San Diego. My reason is that 'life is too short' to waste in places you dislike and don't enjoy. San Diego has it's issues but one thing I fell we can universally agree on is that we can't complain about the weather.

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Don Bauder March 19, 2017 @ 1:31 p.m.

Ponzi: I understand the objections to Texas's "social-political" mores. When you drive through Texas, you see signs, "Don't mess with Texas." You think it refers to littering, but it may as well refer to the macho/paranoid psychology of state residents. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke March 18, 2017 @ 6:25 a.m.

Worked in Austin. Summer is intolerable unless you like humidity. Native Texans are insufferable. Austin is, however, the best city to be in if you have to be in Texas.

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Don Bauder March 19, 2017 @ 1:32 p.m.

AlexClarke: Agreed. Austin is the least uncivilized city in Texas. Best, Don Bauder

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swell March 18, 2017 @ 5:55 p.m.

Outside of Austin you would have to go at least 500 miles to find any culture. (That would be New Orleans, which is still not fully civilized.) Sedona has some art and creative thinkers. Bottom line- if you have any interest in art, music, performing arts, literature or poetry, then Austin is not a bad place to be. I imagine that the 'cowboy' Texans mostly avoid Austin just as they would San Francisco or Berkeley. Just as the cowboys in SD County prefer East County to OB or the Gaslamp district.

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Don Bauder March 19, 2017 @ 1:35 p.m.

swell: On the other hand, Dallas and Houston have good symphony orchestras and present good opera. Best, Don Bauder

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SportsFan0000 March 21, 2017 @ 12:28 a.m.

With all the people immigrating to Texas, I have read that in 20-25 years that it will be a Blue State politically (like Nevada, New Mexico and other Red States gradually turning Blue).

Did you know that over 33% of Texas residents have no health insurance?! The social safety net in Texas completely sucks. And, Texas refused billions in Federal Medicare money to expand medicare in Texas under the ACA?! Texas just passed a new budget cutting 400M from special needs kids for education to balance the State budget and give the top !% another tax cut.?!

Fracking everywhere in Texas is causing many man made earthquakes. A Friend of mine who moved back to CA from Texas stated that he asked some of the locals where were all the State Parks...they directed him to the Eastern Part of the State to find one many, many hundreds of miles away(he lived in the Western part of the State so it did him no good. Texas is not big on nice big State and National Parks...It gets in the way of fracking and bulldozing for more strip malls.

True story. Family man gets hit head on by an oil truck in Texas and breaks just about every bone in his body. EMTs think he is dead. A civilian checks on him and he is alive. He spends a few years in the hospital. He sues the trucking company. Trucking company gets the suit dismissed?! Seems Texas legislature favors big business and would not allow a large lawsuit against the trucking company. They dismiss the case. Injured Plaintiff gets zilch. The company would not even pay his medical bills. Texas does not want civilians hurt by big companies getting big legal awards.

Real Estate has stayed relatively cheap in Texas for decades for many reasons: the people, the culture ( less than CA), the unbearable heat and humidity in the spring and summer, the crazy, often times haphazard zoning and much, more. A former Professor once said in class that his best view of Houston was in his rear view mirror. I know many techies who moved to Texas reversed course and came back to CA ASAP. They and their families hated it. It is not for everyone that is for sure. I guess if you are born there, then you are acclimated to the State and the people. If you are used to tolerance, diversity, progressive thinking, then Texas probably is not for you.

Manchester the younger, used his Dad's contacts, experience, money and connections to get that Hotel built in Austin. They probably figured that they would get it built and then get the locals, city, county and state to give them subsidies to make the numbers work later. In Texas, they have a pretty good chance of getting a corporate handout...

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Don Bauder March 21, 2017 @ 7:45 a.m.

SportsFan0000: Texas's pro-big business mentality permits its governor to go to other states, particularly California, and woo companies to relocate to Texas. It's "business-friendly," they are told, and taxes are low. Best, Don Bauder

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