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Motorola comes to Austin - Finally 1972-73


This one was like pulling teeth! We had tried to keep Motorola informed as to why they should place their next expansion in Austin, but with such a large company we never knew if we were getting to the right people. But one day here it came - in the mail. Here were the criteria for a plant location which included that it needed to be in a community of 25,000 or less, no more than 200 miles from the Mexican border, and a number of other things. My Economic Development team, John Gray, Van Vahrenkamp and I studied the requirements. We determined that the place they described was Seguin - but that was more in the San Antonio market than Austin's area. So we settled on Zorn - half way between San Marcos and Seguin. But they decided on Seguin and placed the auto electronics plant there.

We were disappointed, but not for long. Within six months we had a call from another Motorola division saying they were interested in looking at Austin, along with four other cities, for a chip plant. Their site selection team came to Austin four times. They loved the city, but could not find a suitable site, and told us goodbye. About a week later I was in the office of the Chamber Chairman, Wroe Owens. While he was busy on a phone call, right in front of me on his desk was an appraisal of a 92 acre piece of land next to Tracor on Ed Bluestein Boulevard. When Wroe finished his call, while he was trying to apologize for the interruption, I interrupted him by saying that this is the piece of land where Motorola should be. I took the appraisal, went back to the office, and called my contact at Motorola. He said "Sorry, but we had to write Austin off."

So, I changed tactics, and asked if I could take him to lunch in the next few days. He said it was useless, and I was wasting my time, but, OK. I flew to Phoenix and got to his office about an hour early. The receptionist called him to tell him that I was there. He told her to send me on up.

I showed him what I had, and explained in detail how well it fit their requirements. He listened with interest, and thanked me. We went off to lunch and had a pleasant visit.

It wasn't long before the owner of the land, Tracor (Frank McBee), had a call from the Motorola Real Estate Department. A deal was struck, and Motorola was coming to Austin.

At groundbreaking time, the Plant Manager came riding out of the woods on a mule (it was said that there was once a mine in the area) with a pick over his shoulder. The ground was appropriately broken. For many years, Motorola has been a good citizen of Austin. I'm glad the guy let me take him to lunch.

Vic Mathias - January 5, 2005