Austin. 1 City (1990 pop. 21,907), seat of Mower co., SE Minn., on the Cedar River, near the Iowa line; inc. 1868. The commercial and industrial center of a rich farm region, it is noted as home to the Hormel meatpacking company, whose Spam Town museum draws tourists. There is light manufacturing. 2 City (1990 pop. 465,622), state capital and seat of Travis co., S central Tex., on the Colorado River at the Balcones Escarpment; inc. 1839. Austin is the commercial heart of a large ranching, poultry, dairy, cotton, and grain-producing area. It is also a major convention city and an educational center—the main campus of the Univ. of Texas, St. Edward's Univ., and Huston-Tillotson Univ. are there. The presence of the Univ. of Texas has helped Austin and its suburbs to attract and develop a complex of high-technology research and development firms, and the area is now a leading computer hardware and software producer. Other manufactures include jewelry, medical equipment, consumer goods, electronics, and wood products. Defense industries are also important.
The site was selected in 1839 for the capital of the new Texas republic and named in honor of Stephen F. Austin. In 1870, Austin was made the permanent state capital. Power and flood control projects on the Colorado River (beginning in the 1930s) and World War II spurred industrial growth. The massive capitol (completed 1888), set on a hill, is the most prominent of many state buildings. Also here are the governor's mansion (1856), the old French embassy (1840; dating from the republic), and the house in which O. Henry lived. In recent decades Austin has become a country and popular music mecca and a film industry center. In the hills outside the city are Barton Springs and other scenic and recreational areas; the National Wildflower Research Center is nearby. The former Bergstrom Air Force Base is now site of an international airport.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.