Watching the world watch Texas.

July 30, 2021

In this issue of Branding Texas: Crosswind national poll results clarify the perception of Texas across the U.S., turmoil continues in the Texas state legislature, Lone Star real estate booms, the Sahara finds its way to Texas, legendary Texas bassist passes away, space tourism puts one tiny Texas town on the map, Texans in Tokyo, travelers explore Big Bend National Park, Ranch Water keeps Texans cool and is Texas football back?

Thomas Graham


State of the state of Texas’ brand

While the world is always watching Texas, lately it seems everyone is paying even closer attention. Mass migration, a thriving economy and political disputes have the Lone Star State making headlines across the nation, but what does all of this mean for the state’s brand?

Our recent Texas Pulse national survey results shed some light on the subject.

We surveyed 914 non-Texan, American adults to gauge how they feel about the Lone Star State. Despite contentious headlines, Americans remain fond of Texas and all it has to offer.

48% of Americans have either a positive or somewhat positive view of Texas, 60% of Americans believe Texas is a very good or somewhat good place to start a new business and another 58% of respondents believe Texas is a very good or somewhat good place to raise a family. 66% of Americans say Texas is a good travel destination yet 54% of respondents don’t think they’ll visit the Lone Star State in the next year. 44% of respondents think Texas is headed “in the right direction” compared to other U.S. states, while 31% think Texas is headed “in the wrong direction.”


While everyone else in the country is moving to Texas, Democrats have fled the state

The last few months have been quite eventful for Texas state politics. First came sweeping policy change from Republican state legislators, then Governor Abbott’s call for a special session, and now state Democrats have fled to the nation’s capital.

NBC News reported that the now 60 “runaway Texas legislators” have found themselves “balancing a punishing schedule of political lobbying, outside work, and family obligations, all under a national spotlight.” It’s hard to find a national news outlet that isn’t chronicling state Democrats’ desperate attempt to block Republicans’ proposed voting bill.

Democrats told The Washington Post that they know time is not on their side: “While they quickly secured meetings with lawmakers in their first week in Washington, so far the Texans have been unable to push forward long-stalled federal voting rights legislation. Back at home, meanwhile, Republican officials have ratcheted up their criticism on the Democrats for abandoning their legislative duties, threatening to have them arrested when they return to the state.”

The only clear plan state Democrats have is to remain out of Texas until August 7th, the final day of their scheduled special session.

Only complicating matters further, CNN reported that several Texan legislators who traveled to the capitol have now tested positive for COVID-19.

While we have more questions than answers, one thing is abundantly clear: something needs to change.

Wall Street Journal editorial questions the polarizing conversations surrounding the standoff: “this partisan rhetoric is detached from the facts.” “As Biden apparently sees it, the latest Civil War is in Texas” but these bills are “not an ‘un-American’ throwback to Jim Crow, as Biden claims.” The Journal also notes the Texas legislation’s intent is to roll back provisions hastily enacted during the pandemic. “First, the bills would end two practices that Harris County pioneered last year amid the pandemic: drive-through voting and 24-hour voting… Perhaps they made sense when every Texan was urged to stay six feet from every other Texan.”

Mimi Swartz, Texas native and executive editor of Texas Monthly, also provided her perspective on the political strife in the New York Times. Swartz reminisced on the “natural optimism of Texans” that she feels has been lost amid the chaos. Self-reliance, friendliness and state pride are a part of Texans’ DNA. Regardless of what happens within our legislature, Texans will never lose that spirit.

At our core, we are and always will be proud to be Texans.


Everything’s bigger in the Texas real estate market

cars parked in a rowThe entire nation has been buzzing about the Texas real estate market. With everyone and every company gone to Texas, prime real estate is in high demand. A recent Forbes article detailed the Lone Star State’s “hottest housing markets” with Plano, McAllen, Irving, Frisco and Dallas making their top 5 list.

One particularly special property just hit the market—piquing the interest of real estate enthusiasts across the nation.

20 minutes outside of Dallas, a 10 acre, $8 million “car haven” estate transports residents back to the fifties. The New York Post featured the unique estate in a recent article, claiming that “if Formula One needed a second home, this could be it.”

The home includes lush amenities for humans and cars, equipped with a pool, five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a separate “entertainment house”, car lifts, a paint application booth, tire changer and 10 car garage—not to mention countless antique memorabilia and vintage automobile equipment.


Saharan dust makes its way to the Lone Star State

This year, Texas weather has acquired its fair share of national attention. Last month, the Texas coast experienced yet another miraculous weather phenomenon. Dust from the Sahara Desert

traveled all the way across the Atlantic to our Gulf Shores, creating hazy skies.

National Weather Service meteorologist Sammy Hadi explained the phenomenon to the New York Times: “It’s pretty much just carried by brisk upper-level winds that bring you dust particles, all the way across the Atlantic.”

According to scientists that specialize in tracking Saharan dust movement out of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, “the base of the dust plume starts about a mile above the ground, and the plume can extend up to 2.5 miles into the atmosphere.”


Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dusty Hill dies at 72

ZZ Top, the iconic blues-rock trio out of Houston, Texas, lost one of its cherished members. After 50 years of performing, Dusty Hill passed away leaving a legacy.

The New York Post shared music lovers’ tributes to celebrate the beloved bassist. Rolling Stone honored the legend and released a joint statement from ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons: “We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Hill was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and though not an original member, joined the Texas trio to create their famous hit single “La Grange,” paying homage to their Lone Star State roots.

Having enjoyed ZZ Top live from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, and even many venues in between including just down the road from me here in Austin, I’m sad to see Dusty say, “S’long.” Adios, amigo.


One small step for man. One giant leap for Van Horn, TX

A West Texas town of approximately 1,800 residents hosted one of the country’s first passenger spaceflights, putting the tiny town on the map. reports that Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, the aerospace manufacturing company handling the launch, in 2000 with the intention to facilitate human spaceflight.

The launch took place just 25 miles outside of Van Horn, Texas, a town nestled in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains and previously known for its small farming community and proximity to Big Bend National Park.

Linda McDonald, a Van Horn native, told the Associated Press that she’s “amazed at the prospect of people being launched into space from practically her backyard.”

The New York Post highlighted the team of civilians turned astronauts that made the quick 10 minute trip into space: Bezos joined his brother, Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen on the expedition. Associated Press noted that Funk and Daemen are now the oldest and youngest people to ever visit space.

CNBC provided live updates on the launch. The Blue Origin spacecraft returned safely to Texas land and Mr. Bezos had one thing to say after the trip: “Best day ever.”

Bezos faced criticism following the expedition. One Los Angeles Times “Letters to the Editor” contributor even likened Mr. Bezos to Marie Antoinette. Bezos came from humble roots and has now become one of the richest men in the world. I admire the perseverance and dedication that takes. My only problem with Bezos’s space travel was his questionable fashion choices, some people just can’t pull off a cowboy hat.


The eyes of Texas are upon Tokyo

The long-anticipated Olympic Games are underway across the globe in Tokyo and Texans are making a difference for Team USA.
Of the 11,656 athletes competing in the games,

100 USA Olympians hail from the Lone Star State—that’s more than most countries sent in total. The Olympic Committee might need to add a 207th flag to the opening ceremonies to rightfully represent our great state of Texas.

Celebrated victories and devastating losses captivate audiences around the world, but one story left most in shock. Jenna Fryer of Associated Press reports on Texan and global gymnastics superstar Simone Biles’s choice to put mental health in the spotlight, if not on the podium: “By pulling on her white sweatsuit in the middle of Tuesday night’s Olympic gymnastics meet, and by doing it with a gold medal hanging in the balance, Biles might very well have redefined the mental health discussion that’s been coursing through sports for the past year.”

Fellow Olympic hall-of-famer Michael Phelps expressed his support, saying “it is OK not to be OK. We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect.”


Big Bend National Park wows travelers

Summertime is usually National Parks’ peak season. In Texas, however, the humidity and high temperatures usually keep tourism relatively low compared to sites like Zion, Yellowstone and Yosemite, with peak season from November through April instead.

Yet some travelers brave the heat to visit one of the many wonders of the Lone Star State: Big Bend. CNN Traveler featured the National Park, recounting a traveler’s two-day river trip along the Rio Grande.

The adventurers admired the untouched landscape and sweeping limestone cliffs that create a natural border along southwest Texas and Mexico.

Conversations concerning border security are often top of mind to Texans. The travelers agreed that no man-made barrier may ever be necessary along this stretch of Texas land as “formidable” natural walls “tower around 1,500 feet on both sides of the river, rising straight up to a height greater than the roof of One World Trade Center in New York City.”


Texas specialty quenches thirst across the nation

If you and I have ever shared a beverage, it’s likely to have been either Dan Garrison’s Texas Bourbon or a Ranch Water: a spirited concoction of reposado tequila, mineral water and a fresh lime squeeze. It’s nice to see The Washington Post recognize my favorite summertime drink for its refreshing abilities.

“At its most basic, the drink that sweltering Texans are throwing together is just tequila, lime juice and mineral water. That makes for a pretty tart drink, so many add some form of sweetener, often orange liqueur.”

My preference is the less sweetened version, but you should try it and let me know your thoughts.

The Post questions the cocktail’s origin, but I’m highly confident the drink originated at Austin’s iconic Ranch 616 as the article points out. Trademark pending for Ken Williamson, chef and owner, who has had the drink on his menu since 1998.


Don’t mess with Texas football

While for many, August marks the final month of summer, a return to school and the end of everyone’s favorite season, it also marks the beginning of the biggest season in the great state of Texas: football season.

Whether Cowboy or Texan, Longhorn or Aggie, every Lone Star football lover can’t help but wonder, is Texas football back?

Following a decade of failed attempts at revival, the world of college sports is eagerly anticipating head coach Steve Sarkisian’s debut season with the Texas Longhorns.

AT&T Stadium of Arlington, Texas recently hosted the Big 12 Media Conference where Sarkisian grabbed national attention, asserting his confidence in the Longhorn’s ability to rebuild. Sarkisian told ESPN: “We can’t sit back and relax and think because we’ve got a great stadium, because we’ve got great resources because we’ve got five-star, four-star players, that we just sprinkle a little magical fairy dust and all sudden we’re a really good football team. Winning is hard. Winning takes work. Winning takes grit and great teamwork.”

CBS Sports called Sarkisian the “star of the show” claiming that the Longhorns’ ability to deliver on defense will “ultimately tell the tale of Texas’ season.”

Even more newsworthy is a rumored move for Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. ESPN reported that the two schools were no shows at a recent meeting of Big 12 athletic directors and university presidents. The two schools have allegedly had “informal discussions” with the SEC about a potential move, yet “Big 12 officials and athletic directors, coaches, and presidents of its other schools seemed blindsided by the sudden development.” CBS Sports reported that a UT, OU departure “could put the Big 12 on the brink of collapse” as the Longhorns and Sooners have “propped up the league.”

While nothing is certain, Sports Illustrated reported that Texas and Oklahoma officials formally notified the Big 12 Conference of their intentions to not extend their contracts beyond the 2024-25 athletic year in a joint statement: “The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.”

New QB recruits out of Texas Tech and Baylor are also turning heads, making Texas a hot topic in college sports this fall.


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