Tech Startups Succeed With Top Talent, But Where Will They Park?

Opinion

While companies are in the process of refining prototypes, hiring key employees, and nailing down investment, one overlooked area is where the business will be housed and, more specifically, where everyone will park.

In Austin, it’s not just the new companies that are struggling with finding enough parking for their employees downtown. Established firms are having a hard time as well. Our team regularly conducts an audit of downtown parking availability and it is tight. As this issue becomes increasingly dire, Austin’s top companies and real estate firms are getting creative. Below are five ways we’ve seen tech firms tackle this issue.

Lease spaces from another site: With the recent proliferation of residential housing in downtown Austin, a wealth of new parking spaces have come into existence that, for the most part, are empty during the day. Savvy real estate developers have caught on and are taking advantage of this by negotiating lease agreements to use these residential parking spaces during the workday. For instance, Cielo Realty Partners has reportedly struck a deal with AMLI Residential to lease parking at their residential projects near Austin Music Hall, which Cielo purchased in late 2014. Another example of leasing parking spaces would be how NetSpend negotiated with their landlord to include parking from an adjacent church’s parking garage into their lease to supplement its spaces under the office building. Firms with downtown office space can take note of this strategy and work with their real estate team to seek out similar opportunities.

Leverage your neighbors: While many firms find parking a problem, there are others that have extra spaces to their name. Brokers may be able to help you identify firms in your building, or nearby buildings, that are not using all of their spaces and help you strike a deal to lease them for a fee. Your neighbor gets a new revenue stream and you get more spaces for your employees.

Provide off-site parking and shuttle your employees: An idea originally popularized by companies in the San Francisco area, several Austin firms are now offering off-site parking and providing shuttles to usher employees between the office and these nearby lots. For example, at one point, RetailMeNot had employees park at the Austin American-Statesman across the river, and provided a shuttle service at peak times during the day. To keep employees from feeling landlocked, the company provides free lunch four days per week and breakfast twice per week. It also offers company Segways for employees to run errands around downtown.

Form transportation partnerships: Austin’s transportation scene has become dynamic since the popularization of services like car2go, Lyft, and Uber. These transportation companies offer business plans through which firms may set up corporate accounts and allow employees, within set parameters, to charge their rides to their company. Firms are trading parking bills for cab receipts, which, in some cases, can be cheaper over time. Additionally, RideScout, a local tech company with a mission to improve mobility, provides consulting services to businesses to educate employees on their transportation options.

Incent employees to find alternate transportation: Another alternative to paying for more parking is to encourage employees to find alternative transportation on their own. Companies like Dropbox and Google are offering to directly pay their employees a portion of what they would have otherwise paid for parking if they commit to taking alternative transportation methods such as car sharing, public transit, or even good old-fashioned exercise. (Dropbox has its own “bike room” in the office so that employees can store their bikes close by.) In some cases, Austin employers have found that the additional cash to the employees often outweighs the perceived inconvenience of finding alternative means of getting to work—especially for those employees who live in or around downtown. Metropia, a company here in Austin created an app geared to get commuters to reduce and eliminate traffic congestion. Metropia has a corporate partnership program that is geared towards providing employees rewards for commuting smarter. Additionally, some firms are even gamifying alternative transportation options within the office. For instance, Sparefoot, a fast-growing startup located downtown, recently hosted a competition amongst its employees for who could log the most miles on their bike in a month. This organically encouraged dozens of employees to cycle to work, reducing their parking costs.

Ms. Simmons is a Principal with AQUILA Commercial in Austin, TX. Follow @

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