New rental car center, parking garage planned for Austin airport

Plans are under way for a new three- to four-level centralized rental car center and parking garage at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

On July 29, the Austin City Council authorized spending up to $7 million for a consortium of rental car companies operating at ABIA to undertake design and planning services for the proposed rental car center and garage. The $7 million will come from a fund containing revenue from fees paid by rental car customers at ABIA.

Other U.S. airports that have opened or are planning so-called “consolidated rental car facilities” include Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Las Vegas’ McCarran International, Chicago Midway International, Cleveland Hopkins International, Los Angeles International, Mineta San Jose International, Miami International, Seattle-Tacoma International and Memphis International.

Nearly $420 million is being spent to construct and equip Seattle-Tacoma’s five-floor, 2.1-million-square-foot consolidated rental car facility, scheduled to open in 2012.

Since ABIA opened in 1999, rental car pickups and returns have taken place on the third level of the airport’s terminal parking garage; about 1,200 rental car parking spots are on that level. Rental car counters and offices are on the bottom level of the airport terminal, and each rental car company operates a location northwest of the ABIA terminal for fueling, washing and cleaning vehicles.

The first two levels of the terminal garage are used for public parking—about 2,400 spaces.

As passenger traffic has increased at ABIA, the need for more space for rental car pickups and returns has grown, city officials say.

Airport officials and rental car company representatives agree that building a new rental car center and parking garage on the current site of ABIA’s surface-parking Lot A “is the best way to move forward” to address that need. The project will consolidate rental car pickup and return operations; customer service counters; and fueling, cleaning and storage facilities on the two lower levels. Upper levels will be set aside for public parking.

The terminal space currently occupied by rental car counters will be needed in the future for more baggage carousels, city officials say. The third level of the existing parking garage will revert to ABIA for public parking.

Officials say the ABIA project will be built under a public-private partnership; the price tag hasn’t been determined. Letting the rental car companies take the lead on design, construction and financing will speed up the project, officials say.

In March, the City Council authorized $454,000 in funding for the rental car companies at ABIA to perform an initial feasibility study for the rental car center and parking garage.

To see a video of a rough landing at ABIA, click here.

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Telecom company ShoreTel to double size of Austin workforce

ShoreTel Inc., a publicly traded provider of IP telephone systems, plans to hire about 90 more employees at its Austin office in 2010 and 2011.

Currently, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ShoreTel (Nasdaq: SHOR) employs 90 people at its regional office in Austin. ShoreTel will add about 90 employees in Austin specializing in engineering, customer service, training and development, says Kevin Gavin (top photo), the company’s vice president of marketing.

“As we open new offices abroad and add employees at all of our locations, our Austin facility is where the majority of our employee headcount growth will occur,” Gavin tells AustInnovation™.

For more information about job openings at ShoreTel, click here.

ShoreTel leases nearly 30,000 square feet at 6500 River Place Blvd. in Northwest Austin. The company opened its Austin location in August 2008.

“We’re very happy with our decision to expand our company in Austin and in other locations throughout the world,” Gavin says. “The business community in Austin has been very welcoming, and we’ve been quite successful in hiring some of the best and brightest talent in the industry who live [in Austin] or who are excited about relocating to Austin.”

On Aug. 18, ShoreTel will hold a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Austin. The ceremony will celebrate ShoreTel’s newly renovated and expanded Austin location and its plans to double the workforce here. The event will be from 1-2:30 p.m. in Suite 200 of Building 5 at 6500 River Place. John Combs (bottom photo), chairman and CEO of ShoreTel, is scheduled to attend.

Among the company’s reasons for expanding in Austin are:

  • Proximity to corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley.
  • Strong work ethic.
  • Attractive cost of living and cost of doing business.
  • Deep pool of high-tech talent.

In the third quarter of fiscal 2010, ShoreTel posted revenue of $37 million, up 19 percent from the third quarter of fiscal 2009.

“In our third quarter, we achieved our highest revenue in company history and shipped our millionth phone,” Combs says.

ShoreTel has projected revenue of $41 million to $42 million for the fourth quarter, which ended June 30. The company will announce fourth-quarter results Aug. 11.

Aside from its headquarters in Silicon Valley and its office in Austin, ShoreTel has offices in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. Overall, the company employs about 530 people.

In an April call with Wall Street analysts, ShoreTel executives said the company added 42 employees during the third quarter, including 14 new hires in sales. Many of the new sales representatives came from ShoreTel’s competitors, Combs said. ShoreTel ended the third quarter with 125 employees in sales.

To watch a TV interview with Combs, click here.

Tennessee company plans apartment high-rise for University of Texas students

The University of Texas at Austin is negotiating a ground lease with a Tennessee company tapped to build an apartment high-rise at 24th and Nueces streets that’s targeted toward UT students.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Education Realty Trust Inc. has hired Austin-based PageSoutherlandPage as the lead architecture and design firm for the project, and Greeley, Colo.-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. as the general contractor.

The project will include parking and ground-floor retail. Education Realty Trust (NYSE: EDR) will develop, own and manage the project.

“While the final design and total cost [are] still to be finalized, the project is projected for a summer 2013 opening,” Education Realty Trust says in a news release. “Commencement of construction is subject to execution of final definitive agreements, city approval processes and confirmation of development costs.”

Although the size and cost of the project haven’t been determined yet, the price tag certainly will be in the millions of dollars.

At its July meeting, the University of Texas Board of Regents authorized a ground lease for the nearly 1.5-acre site, which is just west of the UT campus. Officials with the university and Education Realty Trust remain in negotiations on the more than 60-year lease.

The project will be built at 600 W. 24th St. That’s the current location of Wooldridge Hall (photo), which houses the university’s International Office. The fate of Wooldridge, which was built in 1913 as an elementary school, is unclear.

“Until the ground lease is signed, we cannot comment further,” UT spokeswoman Rhonda Watson says.

Near the site for the planned high-rise are a Starbucks shop, a Quiznos restaurant, and the Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Gamma and Kappa Delta sorority houses.

Randy Churchey, president and CEO of Education Realty Trust, says the bidding process for this project was competitive, “and we are happy the University of Texas at Austin selected us for this meaningful new project.”

Education Realty Trust owns or manages 64 student housing communities in 22 states.

Publicly traded aerospace company Astrotech quietly lands in Austin

Publicly traded aerospace company Astrotech Corp., which just fired its president, quietly moved its headquarters last summer to Austin from Houston.

“We felt like Austin had a better feel for what we wanted to do in the future than we were experiencing at the time in Houston,” Chairman and CEO and Chairman Thomas Pickens III (photo) says. “The talent pool in Austin is a great fit for some of our growth opportunities.”

Astrotech (Nasdaq: ASTC), known as SPACEHAB Inc. until 2009, employs 10 people at its Austin headquarters in the Frost Bank Tower at 401 Congress Ave. The company’s facilities in Houston, Florida and California house the rest of its 70 employees.

While Astrotech doesn’t have any job openings in Austin now, “we are optimistic that the company will experience growth in the coming years that would enable us to expand in Austin,” company spokesman Scott Haywood says.

On July 16, Astrotech announced it had fired James Royston as president. The company says it has no immediate plans to fill that position.

“This corporate leadership realignment allows us to streamline Astrotech, reduce overall costs and maximize shareholder value,” Pickens says in a news release.

Royston became president of Astrotech in 2007; he had joined the company in 2000.

Last month, retired Gen. Lance Lord resigned as president of the company’s Astrotech Space Operations Inc. unit and from the company’s board of directors. That board seat will go unfilled until Astrotech’s next annual meeting, the company says, and the role of CEO of Astrotech Space Operations will remain open pending a review of internal and external candidates.

“General Lord was hired to help the company with our restructuring efforts and he proved to be instrumental in the successful execution of that now-completed strategy,” Pickens says in a news release.

Last July, Astrotech hired John Porter as chief financial officer. Porter, a senior vice president of the company, had been interim CFO since the resignation of Brian Harrington in June 2009.

Astrotech provides spacecraft payload processing and government services; designs and manufactures space hardware; and commercializes space technologies for use on Earth. The company was incorporated in 1984 and went public in 1995.

One of its subsidiaries, 1st Detect Corp., is developing a mini-mass spectrometer first created for the International Space Station. Another subsidiary, Astrogenetix Inc., is working on biotech products in space and recently developed a vaccine candidate for Salmonella.

Earlier this year, 1st Detect received a $1.8 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

Astrotech posted a third-quarter net loss of $600,000 on revenue of $6.6 million, compared with third-quarter net income of $3.6 million on revenue of $11.8 million a year earlier.

In fiscal 2009, about two-thirds of Astrotech’s revenue came from NASA and U.S. government contracts or subcontracts.

Last year, Astrotech regained Nasdaq compliance after failing to maintain a minimum stock price of $1 per share.

As of its most recent proxy statement, Fort Worth-based SMH Capital Advisors Inc., a subsidiary of Houston’s Sanders Morris Harris Group, owned 29 percent of Astrotech’s common stock; Chicago-based Bruce & Co. Inc., 8 percent; and Astrium GmbH, a German subsidiary of aerospace and defense giant EADS, 7 percent.

Gendai Games gets funding, grows team

Now that Gendai Games Inc. has closed on a $1.1 million round of venture capital funding, the Austin-based company is filling out its team.

Gendai Games is looking to add about five people to its current team of six employees plus the three founders, CEO and co-founder Michael Agustin (photo) says.

Positions open now at Gendai Games are administrative assistant, front-end web engineer, quality assurance specialist, user experience designer, and game and tools engineer.

DFJ Mercury led the funding round, with participation by Steamboat Ventures, DFJ Frontier and ff Asset Management as well as individual investors Paul Bricault, Paige Craig, Tom McInerney, Josh Resnick and Mark Suster.

“Our company has always been very capital-efficient, and we plan to continue that philosophy as we hit our next milestones. But, naturally, it will take a combination of revenue and other financing to grow much larger than we are,” Agustin says.

The company expects to graduate within the next year from the Austin Technology Incubator.

Gendai Games, founded in 2007, makes the GameSalad game creation tool, allowing non-programmers to create advanced games for the iPhone and iPad. Aside from Agustin, co-founders are Tan Tran and Daniel Treiman.

“GameSalad has been in beta for a year now. As we get close to what we consider a 1.0, we are looking to focus more on polish and performance, rather than a completely new set of features,” Agustin says.

“However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for us. We have ideas to make the tools even more accessible and fun to use, while making the software more powerful, so that more professionals and ‘prosumers’ are able to create more impressive games and interactive experiences.”

Gendai Games offers its tools and publishing as a free service. Users pay an annual subscription when they decide they want to generate revenue by making their apps available for purchase by iPhone and iPad customers.

“We believe that there are a lot of opportunities in mobile gaming,” Agustin says. “There are over 5 billion cell phones out there, and they are quickly being replaced by intelligent mobile devices, powerful enough to play engaging games that appeal to casual game players. It’s pretty clear that social games are colliding with the mobile world today.”

With $6M in new VC in hand, Click Forensics adding dozens of employees in Austin

Austin-based Click Forensics Inc., whose software detects online advertising fraud, is clicking into high gear with its hiring.

Last month, privately held Click Forensics announced it received $6 million in venture capital from Austin Ventures, Sierra Ventures and Shasta Ventures. Some of that cash will be put toward adding dozens of employees in R&D, software development, sales, marketing and client services, CEO Paul Pellman (photo) says.

Currently, Click Forensics employs 35 people at 4301 Westbank Drive. All of the company’s employees are based in Austin and all of the new hires will work in Austin, according to Pellman.

To view Click Forensics’ current job postings, click here. To contact the company’s human resources department, click here.

Pellman says the $6 million in fresh VC “will help us to accelerate the development of our new audience verification offering for display advertisers. The new solution will bring greater transparency and accountability to the display advertising space, just like our existing offerings have done in the search advertising space over the past four years.”

“While the emerging automated world of display advertising buying promises greater reach and ease of use,” Pellman adds, “it also means it’s more difficult for advertisers to ensure audience quality and transparency. Our new display solutions will help ensure that media buyers get what they pay for.”

Since it was founded in 2006, Click Forensics has raised $21 million from Austin Ventures, Shasta Ventures and Sierra Ventures.

To see Pellman explain click scoring, watch this video.

American Achievement growing HQ workforce in Austin

Austin-based American Achievement Corp., which just put all of its recognition and school-spirit products under the Balfour brand, is adding roughly 100 full-time employees in Austin in the latter part of 2010.

American Achievement will be hiring for positions in areas such as college and retail sales, marketing, IT, finance, human resources, manufacturing and customer service. The 100 figure includes some people who already have been hired, some hires that are in the works, some positions that remain to be filled and some positions that are not even on the HR radar yet.

“Balfour will continue to add new talent to meet the demands of our business, especially in technology, sales and marketing,” says Ann Broome, vice president of human resources at American Achievement.

Currently, American Achievement employs 510 people in Austin. All told, the privately held company has 1,800 employees in Austin; Dallas; Waco; Louisville, Ky.; Manhattan, Kan.; and Juarez, Mexico.

The career section of American Achievement’s website is being revamped, so Broome recommends contacting corporate recruiter Will Thomas at will.thomson@cbi-rings.com to inquire about job openings in Austin.

American Achievement makes and sells class rings, yearbooks, graduation products, varsity letter jackets, championship products, military products and affinity jewelry on school campuses and in retail stores. This week, American Achievement announced the marriage of its Balfour, Taylor Publishing, Powers and CB Announcements products under the Balfour name.

The company occupies a three-building complex totaling 166,000 square feet at 7211 Circle S Road in South Austin. A 28,000-square-foot building houses the executive staff as well as sales and marketing; a 25,000-square-foot building contains customer service, information technology and finance functions; and a 113,000-square-foot building houses manufacturing and support services.

American Achievement reported sales of $290 million in fiscal 2009.

Alyce Alston (photo) was named president and CEO of American Achievement in April. She is a former high-level executive at O, The Oprah Magazine; W magazine; De Beers Diamond Jewellers Ltd.; and The Reader’s Digest Association Inc.

In 2004, investment firm Fenway Partners Inc. paid $85 million to buy American Achievement from another investment firm, Castle Harlan Inc. Castle Harlan had owned American Achievement since 1996.

American Achievement’s competitors include Herff Jones Inc. and Jostens Inc.

To watch a video history of American Achievement, click here.

Austin startup Cleanicity goes to the mat to clean up dirt

Carol O’Brien calls herself “an aspiring clean freak.” So it makes sense that she launched a company that develops products for clean freaks.

Last year, she and husband Craig founded Cleanicity, an Austin company that takes ordinary cleanliness-oriented products, infuses them with the latest technology and adds a designer’s touch. Cleanicity’s most popular product is the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, which traps cat litter and keeps it off floors and carpets.

Carol started Cleanicity after leaving a marketing job at Babson College in Massachusetts. She was interviewing for a different position when it hit her: “I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

What did she want to do? Set up her own company.

“When my kids were born, the desire to do something entrepreneurial grew even stronger. I wanted the flexibility to spend time with my children while also fulfilling my need to create and grow something—a product, a brand, a successful business,” says Carol (photo), CEO of Cleanicity.

Carol’s personal quest to create innovative products—particularly ones that would keep her house cleaner for a longer period—spawned Cleanicity. At home, she would rework industrial products for her own needs. Then friends began requesting the products.

Carol says she and her husband initially focused on something he knew about from his work in purchasing for a pharmaceutical supply company—something known as a “sticky mat.” Craig’s high-tech customers used them to keep dirt out of cleanrooms.

Early on, she talked to friends, relatives and potential customers to shape products. “We tried and tested ideas, tossed out some and finally landed on products that struck a chord with our informal focus groups,” Carol says.

Aside from the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, Cleanicity currently sells the Sports Matter Mat and the Dirt Catcher Car Mat. Since March, the home-based business has sold about 100 of the kitty mats. The kitty mat sells for $25.99 and up, depending on the size.

Here’s how the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat works: The mat features 30 layers of clear adhesive film that captures cat litter on its sticky surface. When the top layer is full, cat owners remove it to expose a new, clean layer. To attach the mat to the floor surface, white adhesive strips are adhered to the bottom during manufacturing.

Cleanicity is in talks with pet retailers in Texas about stocking the kitty mats, Carol says. Eventually, she says, the company would like to expand distribution beyond the Internet to retail stores in Texas and around the country. Meanwhile, Carol and Craig are toying with concepts for other “clean freak” products.

“The biggest challenge for me is staying motivated through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. There are many days when the frustrations and disappointments are enough to tempt me to go back to my marketing career,” Carol says.

“One piece of Nike-esque advice from Babson President Len Schlesinger regarding entrepreneurship has helped me stay on track, though. To paraphrase, he suggests you give yourself a timeframe and an amount you’re willing to spend. And then just ‘do it.’ Give everything you’ve got to your idea. These parameters help free me from the constant worry about the risks and let me focus on building my company.”

For now, Carol is the only full-time employee of Cleanicity. Craig works part-time for the startup. However, as the company’s sales grow, Carol envisions the need for additional staff so she and Craig can concentrate on product development. “That will need to come in time, though,” Carol says.

To view a demonstration of the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, click here.

Austin app developer Mutual Mobile taking job applications

Over the next several months, Austin-based Mutual Mobile Inc., a developer of applications for iPhones, iPads and smartphones, will expand its workforce by up to 33 percent.

Sam Gaddis (photo), chief marketing officer at Mutual Mobile, says the company is adding 10 to 20 employees in the near term. Mutual Mobile currently has 60 full-time employees at 1709 Rio Grande St., a three-story, nearly 3,700-square-foot mansion in Central Austin that dates back to 1930.

By the end of 2010, Mutual Mobile probably will have more than 80 employees, according to Gaddis—meaning perhaps even more hires beyond the 10 to 20 on tap over the next few months.

On its website, the company says: “Passion for the mobile space is a requirement for all positions. Direct experience is a requirement for management and development positions.”

Positions available at Mutual Mobile include iPhone, Android and BlackBerry app developer, user interface and user experience designer, project manager and sales consultant.

“We are hiring across the board at the moment,” says Gaddis, who formerly was technology director at the Hill Country Conservancy in Austin. “We will interview anyone who is extremely talented or well-versed in any aspect of mobile.”

To check out the company’s job postings, click here. You can submit your resume to jobs@mutualmobile.com. Because Mutual Mobile receives so many job applications, Gaddis recommends sending work samples “that really stand out.”

Customers of Mutual Mobile include Cisco Systems Inc., Del Monte Foods Co., Dell Inc., Gowalla Inc., Harvard Business Review, Hoover’s Inc. and StumbleUpon Inc.

In June, Mutual Mobile released Track Guide for Illinois-based National Speedway Directory. The iPhone app lists more than 1,300 motorsports tracks.

“We plan to continue our mission to build out the most capable, mobile-specialized technology consultancy in the U.S.,” Gaddis says. “Our core competency is pushing the limits of mobile technology by partnering with forward-thinking brands and agencies who really want to stand out.”

To date, Mutual Mobile hasn’t accepted any outside investments, Gaddis says. The company was founded in 2007.

“We are a lean, efficient team and currently don’t have any plans to seek funding,” he says.

To watch a video of Mutual Mobile’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Mickey Ristroph, discussing how to build successful mobile apps, click here.

LegalZoom already exceeding this year’s hiring goal for new Austin office

Just six months after announcing it was setting up an Austin office, LegalZoom.com Inc. is employing about 50 people in Central Texas and is hiring another 25.

Positions that LegalZoom, a provider of online legal services, is filling for its call center, sales and back-office operations in Austin include customer service manager, customer service specialist, inbound sales specialist, outside sales specialist and legal document preparation specialist. LegalZoom’s average annual salary for a manager in Austin is $125,000; it’s $65,000 for a supervisor.

In March, privately held LegalZoom occupied about 25,000 square feet at Quarry Oaks in Northwest Austin. The company plans to employ 600 people in Austin within 10 years.

Under an agreement with the City of Austin, LegalZoom promised to create 50 full-time jobs here by the end of 2010. The 10-year agreement targets December 2014 for LegalZoom to reach the 600-job mark; LegalZoom is supposed to receive incentive money from the city each year through 2019.

“We are very pleased with our decision to make Austin our home to support the continued growth and expansion of the LegalZoom business, and fully intend to meet the 600-job target over the 10-year period,” says Mike Wilson (photo), the company’s vice president of operations in Austin.

For a list of available jobs at LegalZoom in Austin, click here. To apply for a position, email a cover letter and resume to employment@legalzoom.com.

LegalZoom, founded in 2000, received $1 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund and $200,000 in incentives from the City of Austin to set up a regional office here. The Austin location is LegalZoom’s first away from its headquarters in Los Angeles. LegalZoom says it’s making a capital investment of more than $11.7 million in Austin from 2010 through 2012.

According to the City of Austin agreement, the average annual salary this year for LegalZoom jobs in Austin is $42,000.

Austin was one of three finalists for LegalZoom’s regional headquarters. The company employs about 400 people in Los Angeles.