Watching the world watch Texas.

December 15, 2020

In this issue of Branding Texas: A “tidal wave” of tech companies head for Texas; Queen Bey is recognized in Vogue’s UK edition for her COVID-aid project in Houston; Supreme Court slams door on AG Paxton’s Quixotic quest; the day in Texas history when an elected governor had to take an axe to get access to his new offices; hunting wild boar in Texas can be a sloppy business; and the Washington Post includes visits to Austin’s Peppermint Parkway and Trail of Lights in a list of COVID-resistant holiday pastimes.

Thomas Graham


An “absolute tidal wave” of tech companies “gone to Texas”

Hewlett-Packard traces its origins to 1938, when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard rented a garage in Palo Alto, California. Now, HP Enterprises, a descendant of the pioneering company, is moving to Houston, Texas.

Biggest celebrity catch so far, however, is Elon Musk who announced just this month that he is also leaving Silicon Valley for Texas (he already launched some of his SpaceX rockets from tiny Boca Chica in South Texas).  Just a day earlier, another Silicon Valley mainstay, Oracle, announced it would also move its headquarters to Austin.

It’s become almost an embarrassment of riches: the Austin Chamber of Commerce reports that as of November, 39 companies in tech and other industries have relocated to Austin this year.  Venture capitalists seem to be following.  Londondale’s 8VC is also coming to Austin and the CEO of Dropbox has purchased a home in that city.

Dell was an early pioneer.  That company’s headquarters has been in Round Rock near Austin for decades (it was founded in Austin’s city limits, in a dorm room on the UT Austin campus).  In fact, a patch of Austin has been nicknamed “Silicon Hills” to honor the land rush inside and adjacent to our Texas capital.

Governor Greg Abbott seems downright gleeful at the new companies coming to his state.  He told CNBC: “This has turned into an absolute tidal wave.”  The principal draw seems to be the favorable tax packages newcomers receive.

We call it the Davy Crockett effect.  That patriot once famously said: “You may all go to the hell.  I shall go to Texas.”  He didn’t get a chance to found a startup in Texas.  He fell at the Battle of the Alamo.


The twenty-year reign of Houston’s Queen Bey

The British edition of Vogue celebrated Beyoncé in November, who will be 40 next September; half of that lifetime she has pretty much dominated the global music industry like no other and, in more recent days, she has been extending her reign into fashion.

She has not forgotten her origins in Houston’s Third Ward, however.  The feature in Vogue UK was specifically praising the help she was giving to set up and fund COVID testing for Houstonians in the city’s most economically challenged areas, an effort that began back in May.

Queen Bey told Vogue reporter Edward Enninful: “I worked with a local hospital in Houston, supported them with supplies and whatever they needed to best treat those infected. It was heartwarming to see the photos from the testing sites and to read the letters from the people who were high-risk, due to pre-existing health conditions, who were able to recover and return home safely from the hospital.”

Her good deeds in Houston have drawn additional funding from Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, and she is dedicating money raised from her “Savage” remix.  That new album was done with Megan Thee Stallion who was born in San Antonio but also spent her childhood in Houston, raised in District IV’s South Park neighborhood.


Supreme Court slams door on Texas lawsuit challenging other-state election results

The quixotic quest by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to challenge 10 million votes in four swing-states – Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin – was short-lived but made international headlines —and certainly lit a bright loyalty lantern pointing directly at our state’s principal top law enforcement officer that may burn well into the next national election cycle.

The Supreme Court, however, was very curt in its turndown, deciding quickly that Texas fell short of demonstrating a proper legal interest in meddling in the manner by which another State conducts its elections.

It was an impossible dream, of course, but the bid did succeed in giving Paxton a few minutes more of national fame … and provided some likely distraction to previous headlines of conflicts with former staff members.


When another chief executive refused to recognize electoral defeat …

The electoral votes confirming the victory of Joe Biden rolled in this week.  But the continuing refusal of the current White House incumbent to admit he has lost the election reminded the Washington Post of the curious case of Edmond J. Davis, a former Union officer during the Civil War who won election to Governor in his home state of Texas in 1869. When he ran again in 1872 for reelection and lost, he declared the entire election invalid.

When the actual 1872 winner, Richard Coke, showed up in mid-January to occupy the governor’s office, he found that Davis locked himself inside and refused to come out.  Davis only gave up days later when President Ulysses S. Grant refused to send federal troops to save him.  But Davis then locked up the empty office … and took the keys with him.  Coke had to bust down the door with an axe.


These Texas piggies may not ever make it to market

We spotted another bit of Texas-envy in a Los Angeles Times account of feral pigs in Texas.  With nearly 3 million wild hogs on the run inside our state, it’s open season year-round here on Texas feral pigs.  That population does millions of dollars in damage to land, crops and other wildlife.

In Texas, hog hunters need a regular hunting license, but no other special permit is required as they fan out across the countryside to take down the wild boar.

California also once permitted uninhibited hog hunts but has added in a wild-pig-tag fee.  Reported in the L.A. Times, the largest newspaper in California:  “Year-round hunting has curbed the population and created another Texas tradition – competitive hog hunts.”

Careful where you walk, of course.  Texas also doesn’t require the hunters to pick up the dead beastie and take its carcass to market or to a proper barbeque, although “wild boar” prices are up to 60 cents a pound.


Be COVID-safe on your Christmas outings

The Washington Post has included visits to Austin’s Peppermint Parkway and Trail of Lights in its list of COVID-resistant holiday pastimes.

Dancing elves, roller-skating snowflakes, baton-twirling candy canes and a zip-lining Grinch are all part of the lineup at the Peppermint Parkway, a drive-through event at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), a Formula One racetrack.

Also noted was Austin’s 56-year-old Trail of Lights, which had to be adapted for COVID safety into a drive-through event this year.  It draws half a million people annually who all must safely remain in their cars this year.  Bubble up, y’all.


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