Axios Austin

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It's Tuesday.

⛅️ Today's weather: Slight chance of thunderstorms this morning, then partly sunny. High of 86.

Situational awareness: Austin-Bergstrom will be among the first airports in the nation to receive new airfield surveillance systems.

  • The air traffic control technology aims to reduce the risk of runway incursions — or that moment when one airplane is incorrectly on the runway just as another is trying to land or take off.
  • FAA officials say the technology will be implemented in Austin by July.

Today's newsletter is 927 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: School spring breaks, SXSW misaligned

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Austin could feel a lot more crowded next March.

South by Southwest and spring break for area schools have been scheduled for different weeks, the first time since 2019 that there's been a misalignment.

Why it matters: Historically, the two have coincided, leaving the city less crowded as thousands of SXSW attendees pour into Austin. Plus, SXSW relies on student volunteers to support nine days of programming.

State of play: SXSW officials announced at the close of this year's event that the 2025 conference and festivals will be held March 7-15 while spring break for Austin ISD, Austin Community College, St. Edward's University and the University of Texas will fall a week later, on March 17-21.

The latest: SXSW officials said they choose their dates "many years in advance," but added that talks with local schools are ongoing.

  • "We are still discussing with outside partners and stakeholders, including the schools, on 2025 date alignment," an SXSW spokesperson tells Axios in an email.

Yes, but: "ACC has no plans to change its spring break in 2025," said Austin Community College spokesperson Sydney Pruitt.

  • And UT recommended aligning with AISD and ACC because of the number of students who need their spring break to fall in line with other schools, according to Renee' Acosta, the chair of UT's Calendar Committee.

What we're watching: Who folds first — schools or SXSW — as we get closer to a busy month for crowds and traffic.

Read the rest

2. What Tesla's cuts mean for Austin

Tesla vehicles outside an Austin showroom. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Major Austin employer Tesla is cutting more than 10% of its workforce globally as it grapples with middling electric vehicle sales.

Why it matters: The company is the world's largest maker of premium EVs, but recently reported its lowest quarterly sales since 2022.

  • Tesla did not respond to Axios' interview request.
  • The company had about 140,000 employees at the end of last year, according to a public filing.

Zoom in: The car manufacturer employs 22,777 people in Austin, surpassing H-E-B, at about 19,000, as the city's largest private employer, per data from Opportunity Austin.

Driving the news: CEO Elon Musk told employees in an email that the move stemmed from a need to cut costs and bolster productivity, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • "This will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle," Musk said in the email, the WSJ reported.

Between the lines: A 10% cut of Tesla's Austin workforce would translate into about 2,300 direct jobs and about 5,000 jobs overall when multiplier effects are considered, Waco-based economist Ray Perryman tells Axios.

What they're saying: "Austin typically gains 40,000 or more net jobs every year, and that total always includes some layoffs mixed with other expansions and relocations," Perryman says.

  • "I would not expect a layoff of this magnitude to significantly alter the growth path of the region, but it will certainly be felt — particularly in a period when the area is dealing with challenges in the commercial real estate sector."

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏥 A man was rescued from the inside of a garbage truck yesterday morning. (KVUE)

📢 The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to leave in place a lower court decision that effectively eliminated the right to organize a mass protest in Texas — as well as Louisiana and Mississippi. (Vox)

⚖️ A Travis County District judge has ordered Austin to scrap a plan to steer property tax money toward infrastructure projects in parts of South Austin. (KUT)

🏠 A 110-year-old home on West Avenue that was once home to the photojournalist Russell Lee and his wife, pioneering campaign manager Jean Lee, could soon be crowned a local landmark. (Austin Monitor)

4. Waterloo faces big growth decision

A Waterloo water van in downtown Austin in 2022. Photo: Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

Austin-based sparkling water brand Waterloo's CEO tells Axios exclusively his company is trying to decide whether to scale the business on its own or sell — or develop more direct-store delivery partnerships with retailers.

Why it matters: Waterloo is part of a club of scaled sparkling water startups that could attract the interest of acquirers.

  • Now the company, founded in 2017, is at a crossroads familiar to growing brands.

What they're saying: There's going "to be an inflection point in the not-too-distant future," CEO Jason Shiver says.

State of play: Competing against rivals like Spindrift and Liquid Death, Waterloo's sales are north of $200 million and the company is approaching profitability, Shiver says.

The big picture: Increasingly, health-conscious consumers are opting for zero-calorie alternatives like flavored sparkling water.

📬 Retail Deals: If you need smart, quick intel on dealmaking in the retail industry for your job, get Axios Pro.

5. ✂️ One burning question to go

To pick, or not to pick. That is the question. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Country music sweetheart Kacey Musgraves unwittingly started a debate last week over the legality of … picking the state flower.

Why it matters: Bluebonnets are sacred in Texas and some people are told from childhood that it's illegal to pick them. (It isn't, as long as you aren't on private property.)

Driving the news: Musgraves, who grew up in East Texas, shared a photo on Instagram this month from Austin holding a bluebonnet bunch.

The intrigue: Her comments section filled up with traumatized Texans who grew up believing picking bluebonnets is illegal in the state.

  • The post also sparked a debate in the comments over the ethics of picking bluebonnets.
  • "Just because it's legal doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do," one commenter wrote.

📬 Time for you to weigh in. Reply to this email and let us know your take on this very important topic.

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Thanks to Bob Gee for editing and Kate Sommers-Dawes and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🐦‍⬛ Asher is listening to Kacey Musgraves' cover of a Bob Marley song. (H/t Truc B.)

😹 Nicole is heading to see Amy Sedaris in action.

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