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Rockets & Rail - Big News North of Austin

Two transportation stories last week involving aerospace rockets and rail transportation North of Austin in Cedar Park and Leander might not appear to be related but they could be very closely tied?

Cedar Park announced Friday that "Project Sinatra" was approved for a $4.3M city economic development agreement brought to you by none other than Ben White, not the Boulevard in Austin but the Cedar Park Economic Development Director, the same Ben White responsible for bringing Kalahari to Round Rock years ago. Project Sinatra (Fly Me to the Moon, get it?) was confirmed to be Firefly Aerospace and they are purchasing 40,000 square feet in the Scottsdale Crossing Technology Center to expand their Headquarters in Cedar Park and creating an impressive 682 additional jobs with $90K average salary.

With $75M Series A Funding Round last month valuing Firefly at $1B they now become Cedar Park's first Unicorn!

Cedar Park has successfully leveraged their Economic Development Corporation and the 1% dedicated sales tax to bring significant employers and developments to town over the years but the new employees can only get to their new jobs by car as Cedar Park does not contract with Cap Metro for mass transit services unlike Leander just to the north.

Leander on the other hand has been included in Cap Metro's service area since it was created in 1985. They also have dedicated 1% of the total 2% sales tax available for local revenue to Cap Metro for their services for the same period. Seeing Cedar Park use the same 1% sales tax to bring business and growth nearby has caused some to question what is the best use of this potential revenue stream.

Former Leander Mayor Troy Hill described the situation this way last year when debating continuing Cap Metro agreement,

"Paying half our sales tax into this system puts us at a competitive disadvantage when competing with cities around us for companies' relocations, which restaurants, retail and other types of economic activity follow. Due to the demands that explosive growth has brought, we cannot afford to pay 1 cent of our sales tax."

Maybe the timing is coincidence but 1 week before Cedar Park's big Firefly blockbuster announcement, Leander City Council voted to allow its voters decide this November whether to keep dedicated 1% sales tax for Cap Metro service funding for commuter rail and express bus service into Austin. This dedicated sales tax has been sending $5M+ per year to Cap Metro recently and pevented Leander from setting up a Economic Development Corporation to help lure large companies like the CP.

This election will be a highly watched race and either way could change Leander's trajectory for years to come.

Williamson County is really heating up with the $1B Apple Campus and now the $1B company Firefly growing their HQ in Cedar Park. Who is next to make a huge development announcement?

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