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Austin living, via Chicago

Second City transplants on why they love their Texas home

  • Resignation Brewery president Joe Michaels & Chive CEO Leo Resig in the Chive offices in Austin, TX on March 12, 2014. ( Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Resignation Brewery president Joe Michaels & Chive CEO Leo Resig in…
March 12, 2014|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

New York, Los Angeles, maybe even Seattle. These are the usual suspects for Chicagoans looking for a new home. But one of the sleeper picks slowly becoming a haven for former Second City residents might come as a surprise: Austin, Texas.

Population data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than 1,500 Cook County residents migrated to the three counties that make up the greater Austin area between 2007 and 2011. That may not seem huge until you compare it with big-name burgs like San Francisco (987) and Brooklyn (250). Each had smaller numbers of ex-Chicago-area residents relocating to those cities over the same period.

Why Austin? For some like Leo Resig, former West Loop resident and co-founder of pop-culture website The Chive, the siren call was of a financial nature.

"Austin is a pro-business town," said Resig, 34, who moved to Austin last year. "The support they offered, in addition to there being no income tax, made it a no-brainer for us [when planning to relocate]."

Joe Michaels, the current brewmaster at Resignation Brewery (a beer company created as an extension of Chive parent company Resignation Media) and former Lakeview resident, agrees and added that the city goes out of its way to support new businesses with incentives and opportunities for cheaper land.

Not all folks flee to Austin for the tax write-off. Former Logan Square resident Andy Keil, founder of music startup FUWeekend, was attracted by the chance to start anew.

"Having so many good friends in the city, I stopped challenging myself and got complacent," Keil, 24, said. "I got stuck in a rut knowing all the same people and realized I needed to get out of my comfort zone so I made the move."

The annual South by Southwest music, film and interactive festival also played a role. Keil says he visited SXSW three times and fell so deeply love with the town's vibe that in 2012, he decided to stay.

Resig also notes: "Austin is a bigger music town than Chicago. You get all these festivals [Austin also hosts the FunFunFun Fest and Austin City Limits music festivals and is known as the Live Music Capital of the World]. Big bands, small bands. We get it all."

Why Austin, though? Michaels thinks it's all about the feeling of camaraderie. "I think people from Chicago move here because the city has a similar personality. People are friendly and way less difficult to meet," said Michaels, 30, who moved to Austin in 2013. "You get embraced here. Also, the cost of living is going up, but it's still not as crazy as Chicago yet."

While all three guys have fond memories of Chicago, make no mistake: None of them misses the weather for a second.

erwilkins@tribune.com 

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