Sunday, February 17, 2013

Natalie Betts, Talks about the International Economic Development Program for the City of Austin

Natalie Betts, Acting International Economic Development Program for the City of Austin

Where are you from originally?

Tucson, Arizona.

What university did you go to?

I got my bachelor’s at Emory University in Atlanta, GA and my Masters of Public Affairs at Indiana University.

What brought you to Austin?

As an undergrad, I did a summer internship in Austin and fell in love with the city.  Austin was my top choice when looking for jobs after graduation from IU.

What is your group’s mission?

The City of Austin Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office’s (EGRSO) mission is to create a cultural and economic environment that enhances the vitality of the community in a manner that preserves Austin's character and environment.

What need does it fulfill?

We are the point of contact for businesses within the City government. We help small businesses navigate through the development process, oversee incentive deals, and help companies of all sizes expand in many ways, by promoting a strong quality of life, a healthy business climate and through international trade.

What exactly does it bring to startups?

Our office is a great connector and information provider for startups. It is our job to know the business landscape and connect businesses to the resources available to them. Through our business education classes and technical assistance we make sure that startups are armed with the knowledge and business acumen they need to be successful. We also provide market research information at our Business Solutions Center, calendars of events in our various newsletters, and information fairs like Meet the Lender. 

What type of startup would benefit from your group?

All of them! We have different services for different types of startups. We have our BizOpen service for startups that are opening a storefront, our Emerging Tech Program for technology startups, an International Trade and Investment Program for startups who are interested in utilizing international markets. If there is a service gap in the community, we want to hear about it, so get in touch! It’s our job to make sure every business has a strong foundation for growth.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?

Our current initiative is a funding forum that will take place at the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) North American Division Workshop here in Austin. Local, national, and international companies will be able to pitch to Austin investors.  The most challenging aspect of this initiative is that it is the first of its kind for this organization (IASP). We are introducing the concept of a funding forum and have to make the case for its relevance to science parks and areas of innovation around the world. Because of its newness, it is also putting Austin on the global map as a destination where startups can find funding to grow their business. This initiative would be MUCH more challenging if we didn’t have our partnership with TEN; we’re so glad to be bringing TEN’s expertise to this event.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Take advantage of the resources available at the City of Austin! Having a great business idea and being knowledgeable about running a business are not the same thing. We’re here to help you develop the business skills and connections necessary for your product or service to be successful in the marketplace and start bringing jobs and wealth into our community.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

In my work at EGRSO I have focused mostly on international economic development. In that area, the Austin U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) is the most helpful resource available to Austin companies.  The USEAC provides free export counseling to businesses and can link local businesses to country, industry, and financing experts through their network of embassies around the world.