1970s Austin No. 12: Dan Bullock on some surprising influences
We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first.
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Dan Bullock, longtime civic leader
Thoughts on the dynamics of the 1970s: Austin in the 1960s still centered around the Capitol and University of Texas. IBM was expanding a plant, but the tech industry was in its infancy. There was no significant philanthropy and limited cultural opportunities. We were growing in some ways, but had reached our “Peter Principle level of financial and development incompetence.” All that was getting ready to change.
Austin had many successful homegrown businesses as we entered the ’70s, but it would take outside investors to give our community the jumpstart to a higher playing field. Houston and Dallas bank holding companies took over several of our major banks and gave us larger sources of investment capital. The Austin National Bank (Interfirst), City National Bank ( First City) and Capital National Bank ( Texas Commerce) were three main examples of local to regional ownership transitions in the ’70s.
Austin’s retail opportunities would be enhanced with our first shopping malls: Northcross and Highland Malls.
Austin’s skyline took a leap in the ’70s with three new towers. Dobie Center and two bank towers Chase and Bank of America.
Our tech industry took a big jump as Motorola joined IBM as major tech manufacturers and employers.
Austin’s “Live Music Capital” rep would have its genesis in the ’70s. Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin City Limits, Antone’s, Liberty Lunch, The Chequered Flag, and Soap Creek Saloon were major influences starting in this era. Many musicians such as Jerry Jeff and Willie Nelson ould come to play and decide to stay.
The ’70s saw the renovation of the Paramount Theater and development began on Sixth Street.
Mo-Pac was opened thru the middle of town, opening up transportation parallel to I-35.
And Texas Monthly began their successful publishing run that would highlight Texas from their Austin base.
All of these were catalysts that changed the dynamics and diversity of all aspects of our community. More jobs, more money, more demand for cultural diversity, more philanthropic potential, expanding creative classes.
The ’70s were a time of significant growth in almost all facets of community. We’re now living in one of the fastest growing and most desirable cities in the country. That fact comes with attendant frustrations, but lots of us love Austin for its unique mix of cultural and natural resources. We owe much to the dynamics and creative, progressive thinkers of the ’70s for pushing and loving us to the current city we so enjoy.