Miller Salutes Austin Entrepreneurs

Ernst-and-Young-Entrepreneur-of-the-Year-LogoAs our founder was an entrepreneur and so many of our customers are hard working entrepreneurs, we would like to add our kudos to this year’s Austin winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, announced last night:

• Emerging winner: Ally Davidson, co-founder and co-CEO of Camp Gladiator

• Technology Services winner: Christopher Hester, CEO, Kinnser Software

• Real Estate, Construction and Infrastructure winner: Greg Henry, founder, Aspen Heights

• Transformational winner: Mark Watson, president and CEO, Argo Group International Holdings

• Emerging winner: Amy Porter, founder and CEO, AffiniPay LLC

• Technology winners: Hank Seale, founder and chairman; and Matt Flake, president and CEO, Q2 Software

Full story in today’s Austin Business Journal>>>

Where do You Stand on Standing Desks?

Standing_desk_From the HellaWella blog:

We’re huge fans of standing desks. They help give your circulatory system a break from being sedentary for hours on end, and they may even help sharpen your focus. If you’re still on the fence, then check this out.

An innovative wearable technology for standing desks that creates a new way of interacting with your computer could reduce cyber-slacking and increase healthy movement.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science are hoping to make computing a bit more fun and physically active all while helping computer users kick lazy habits by introducing a foot interaction method for computer users with a standing desk.

Professor Daniel Vogel presented Tap-Kick-Click: Foot Interaction for a Standing Desk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Designing Interactive Systems 2016 in Brisbane, Australia this week.

The idea behind the research project, conducted with master’s student William Saunders, is that computer users at standing desks can increase their physical activity through indirect, discreet two-foot movements that include a combination of kicks, foot taps, jumps and standing postures that are tracked using a depth camera and instrumented shoes.

In addition to increasing physical activity while standing, these techniques use foot input as a cyber-slacking deterrent by requiring the user to stand in a mildly uncomfortable position, such as a lunge, while viewing social networking websites or other distracting content. When the user changes from that position, the distracting content locks again.

“People already use a standing desk to be healthier and more productive. Increasing physical activity by using your feet to enter commands is our main focus, but the anti-cyberslacking pose is something that really pushes the whole idea farther,” said Vogel. “Some people already install software to completely block sites like Facebook when they want to get work done. Our technique lets people use those sites, but since they need to stand in an uncomfortable pose while viewing them, they’re naturally encouraged to keep it brief.”

The researchers demonstrate the Tap-Kick-Click technique with a web browser, document reader and a code debugger, but the system can be paired with almost any desktop application. An on-screen guide helps the user remember and perform associated foot actions while taking a break from working with their hands.

“There’s plenty of research showing that using feet to type or move a cursor isn’t a very good idea. We demonstrate that with the right style of interaction, feet are a good fit for slower tasks with intermittent input. Things like scrolling a webpage while reading or interactive code debugging,” said Vogel. “We hope our system can make computing more physically active and maybe even a bit more fun.”

Additional information and video>>>

Inspiration from a Bad Cup of Coffee

Pictured from left: Justin Espinosa: Miller IDS, Graphic Designer; Brent Armstrong: Texas Coffee Traders, Client Growth Specialist; Nik Sauer, Miller IDS, Production Manager (Metric Store); pictured at Texas Coffee Traders’ Airport Hilton location.

The genesis of Texas Coffee Traders was simple; R.C. Beall drank a good cup of coffee, then a very, very bad cup of coffee and wondered how they could be so different.

A Montana forestry ranger originally from Houston, R.C. bought an old roasting machine complete with five bags of green coffee beans he found in a barn and started experimenting. He decided this could be a business and started Montana Coffee Traders in 1981, eventually growing it into the sustainable business and community hub he had envisioned.

But Texas was calling him home, so he returned, reconnected with and married Beth and then together they founded Texas Coffee Traders in an old Austin warehouse on East 4th in 1994. They had the same goal of roasting and serving fresh, high quality Fair Trade coffee in a TxCoffeeTraders_In-StoreSignage_600wrelaxed, friendly neighborhood place, becoming an integral part of the Austin community and giving back to that community.

According to Beth Beall, it is that same sensibility and community involvement that first drew them to Miller IDS. In her words, “they get us”! Beth says they generally come to Miller with a vague concept and Miller takes that concept to a whole new level, realized in visual collateral such as banners, signage TxCoffeeTraders_600wand adhesives that underscore Texas Coffee Traders’ solid reputation and credibility, but allow their unique, self-described “quirkiness” to shine through.

We are big fans and hope to see you there! If you can’t make it by, you can purchase their excellent coffee in their online shop at

Miller IDS’ Featured June Artist

hummingbirds and flowers print 9x12 110_smallTo celebrate June, we are featuring the bright and beautiful artwork of Melissa Knight. Melissa works with batik, a centuries-old wax-dye resist process traditionally used to make designs/patterns on fabric.

Melissa dabbled part-time for years in multiple media, seeking a creative outlet but had never considered making art full time. However, when their child was born almost seven years ago, Melissa’s full-time artist husband, Ethan Azarian, encouraged her to quit her job and take the time to fully develop the batik work she had been trying. She creates collage designs, preferring this style to the more traditional batik design, enjoying the surprises of batik; the crackles and the layers of colors that emerge in the wax-dye process. When inclusion in the Blue Genie Art Bazaar last year required more pieces, Melissa began working with Miller IDS to scan and print her batiks and the prints have proved quite popular, as they reproduce the textures and layers of the art. Inspired by the seasons, much of her work, such as the featured “Hummingbirds and Flowers”, includes local flora and fauna.

Melissa’s batiks may be seen on her website or currently at Mockingbird Domestics. Melissa also participates in the annual East Austin Studio Tour at her home studio Blue Cow Studio.


Booming Riverside Drive comes up short on retail

mapFrom today’s Austin Business Journal:

The rapidly gentrifying East Riverside Drive corridor presents tenants and homebuyers with a plethora of new housing options but the neighborhood has a significant drawback. There isn’t nearly enough retail to serve the mushrooming population.

Commercial real estate broker Jim Young, principal of Longbow Real Estate Group, has been studying the corridor on behalf of several clients and posted a blog on his website about the retail gap and potential investment opportunities.

Based on data culled from ESRI, a research company that is utilized by the Certified Commercial Investment Members professional organization to which Young belongs, the area shown in the accompanying map currently supports $284 million dollars of retail activity annually. The map shows the area within a five-minute drive of 2015 E. Riverside Drive, a retail strip center where Emo’s music venue is located and near the center of the development activity.

But the capacity of retailers within those parameters is only $191 million annually.

“When there is an unmet need, we call it a retail gap because money is leaking out of the trade area,” Young said. That gap is certain to grow, he added.

Hundreds of luxury apartments have opened in the past two years and single-family home communities also have delivered.

Standard Pacific Homes is underway with an infill community dubbed “Park East,” near East Riverside and Montopolis drives.

Young’s client Presidium Group is developing more than 400 apartments at 1600 Pleasant Valley Road.

Nearby, the biggest game changer in recent history will occur when Oracle Corp. builds its 560,000-square-foot campus on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake just west of Pleasant Valley Drive. Some 1,000 employees are expected to be based there, and Oracle purchased an adjacent apartment building with the expectation of providing workforce housing.

Though an HEB Plus Grocery Co. store serves the area, the rest of the retail offerings tend toward fast food restaurants and smaller service providers. The need for more retail development is larger than expected, Young said.

“I’m really surprised by this gap, but East Riverside has changed so dramatically in the last five years both in population and resident income,” he said. “Clearly there’s a new income demographic for the area and it makes sense in hindsight that the retail gap is so large. Someone much smarter than me once said, ‘Retail follows rooftops.'”

Young said he hopes shedding light on the scarcity of retail in an area, which previously was a bulwark of student housing and lower-income households, will lead to more stores and restaurants.

“My hope is that retail and mixed-use developers with creative vision will look deeper at East Riverside Drive as an area to bring some major projects to Austin,” Young said. More information>>>

Miller IDS’ Featured May Artist

barton 002 country house adj_200This is the perfect month to feature the work of Greg Barton, as the Austinite’s artwork will appear in the West Austin Studio Tour May 14/15 & 21/22, which Miller IDS is proud to sponsor.

Greg’s unique style of using his fingers – as well as the occasional rag – to apply paint produces almost Impressionistic images which strongly evoke a sense of place. Most of his work is of landscapes, either his beloved Texas or Cape Cod scenes, all of which draw the viewer in by sharing the colors and light of the scene effectively. The image featured here, entitled “Gray Day 2” was inspired by summer visits to the Cape marshes and their timeless salt-weathered houses.

For more of Greg’s work, please come by to meet him and view his work up close at the Linc Collective Artist Group during the West Austin Studio Tour, or visit his website.

Massive tract east of Austin on market for $250M

sandowFrom today’s Austin Business Journal:

Alcoa Inc. has put its Texas land holdings on the market for $250 million, which include a vast array of water rights that could be the biggest known deal of its kind ever struck in the Lone Star State.

The property — known as Sandow Lakes Ranch — being sold by the New York-based metals manufacturer totals nearly 33,800 acres. The land spans three counties and sits about 45 miles east of downtown Austin.

“This is the largest water deal of its kind,” said Bernard Uechtritz, who is the Dallas broker behind the sale of the famed $725 million Waggoner Ranch .”It has an incredible amount of holding capacity and that holding capacity could be increased.”

Uechtritz is marketing Sandow Lakes Ranch, which stretches 30 miles long across three Texas counties, on behalf of the seller, Alcoa, through his newly formed company, Dallas-based International Icon Properties.

The ranch includes 14 lakes covering 1,960 surface acres, totaling 48,379 acre-feet of water. Each year, the ranch is permitted 44,000 acre feet of water through the Simsboro Aquifer with an additional 14,000 acre-feet available for permitting.

An additional 18,000 acre-feet of surface water from the Little River run through the property. By selling the ranch, Alcoa would transfer 100 percent of its water rights.

Uechtritz said the company has won a number of environmental awards for its operations and the water — which is continuously checked — could be bottled for consumption today.

As part of the deal, Alcoa would like to leaseback portions of the ranch, which includes two power plants operated by lignite with rail service. The metals manufacturer has been working at the property since the 1950s, at a time when Alcoa was mining coal on the land.

Along with water rights, the acquisition of Sandow Lakes Ranch includes:

  • 6,000-acre industrial complex, which includes roads, railhead, intermodal facility, warehousing, distribution and manufacturing;
  • 5,564 acres with 100 percent oil and gas minerals, along with 22,489 acres with 60 percent oil and gas minerals;
  • An estimated 200 million ton of lignite coal
  • A plethora of fish and wildlife that could be used for conservation;
  • Last year, the ranch produced 16,000 bales of hay, a figure that could triple under the right owner, Uechtritz said.

This is the first time Alcoa has taken the property to market since acquiring it about 100 years ago. Much like Waggoner Ranch, Uechtritz said he plans to market it worldwide through September. Uechtritz expects to select a buyer by the end of the year.

“We’ve got a lot of interest in the property,” he said. “There is so many end users for it — whether it’s bottling or municipalities or conservation — it’s a multi-faceted property from industrial to commercial to agricultural.”

One of the interested buyers could be Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corp. It has proposed a billion-dollar-plus pipeline, which, if built, would deliver water to San Antonio. The proposed 142-mile pipeline would likely cross the southern end of Sandow Lakes Ranch.

“We have the chance to put this in the right hands,” Uechtritz said. “This is an oasis outside of Austin that can really serve the community.”

Full story>>>

Huge airport mixed-use development slated for approval

From today’s Austin Business Journal:

Velocity Crossing, a 390-acre mixed-use development near the airport with almost 2 million square feet of office space and hundreds of apartments planned, is expected to receive a zoning change Thursday from Austin City Council that would clear the way for work to begin.

The land is owned by local investors including Karl Koebel and Doug Launius. Austin Business Journal broke the news about the development in a March 2015 cover story about the booming Southeast Austin submarket.

The development will be off State Highway 71 east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and have up to 410,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 1.5 million square feet of industrial space, 893 apartment units, a 10-screen movie theater, 1,200 hotel rooms and 26 acres of open space, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Construction is expected to wrap up in 2025 but no estimate was given for when it might begin.City Council gave preliminary approval to the zoning change in March.

Southeast Austin has seen increasing development activity lately as investors and homebuyers flock to the open spaces and lower prices outside the urban core and the relatively built-out North Austin submarket. Projects in the area include Brookfield Residential’s Addison and Easton Park master-planned communities plus the forthcoming Pilot Knob.

“It’s really all about transportation access,” Koebel told ABJ last year. “You can get to a job downtown in 15 minutes.”

Additional information>>>

Miller IDS’ Featured April Artist

EL TORERO RGB ADJ2 crop_600wThis month, we are pleased to feature the artwork of Javier G. Corona, the founder of another multi-generational Austin business. Javier and his wife, Amelia, founded Austin’s beloved Las Palomas Restaurant in 1983. He was a sensitive and talented artist; he painted, wrote poetry, composed music, played the guitar and designed his family’s homes in both Mexico City and Austin.

Born in 1927 in Mexico City, he studied accounting, advertising, and art at universities in Mexico City and New York City. After graduation, he spent three years in Canada, working for the Mexican consulate in Montreal, then moved back to Mexico, where he worked for the American Embassy in Mexico City for 28 years in the office of the cultural attaché, responsible for promoting American music, dance, and visual arts and traveled extensively. Upon retirement, the American government honored him with permanent U.S. resident visas for his family and they chose Austin as their new home.

Javier passed away in 2003, and his daughter MariCarmen Corona Dale now runs the restaurant. Some of Javier’s paintings may be seen at Las Palomas, including many painted during his Abstract Impressionism phase, such as “El Torero” featured here. He is remembered as an exceptional husband, father, son, brother, grandfather, friend, artist and – always – a gentleman.

Developer vows to move forward on Pflugerville mega-project; lawsuit pending

Renderings of Pflugerville Crossing

From the Austin Business Journal:

Scott Mann, the Houston developer behind the proposed $800 million Pflugerville Crossing LP mixed-use project north of Austin, said he has no idea why Pflugerville has backed out on an incentive agreement that was inked in January 2015.

“I don’t really know why (they) would terminate you with no discussion,” Mann said. “It bears investigating.”

The 119-acre project has two main elements: Sunshine Village Town Center and SunTech Office Park, which was previously profiled by ABJ.

Terri Toledo, a spokeswoman for the city of Pflugerville, said there’s nothing mysterious about the March 22 decision by City Council to void the agreement.

“The agreement was ended because the terms of the agreement weren’t met,” Toledo said. “The developer didn’t secure purchase of the land. The city didn’t receive completed development plans. It wasn’t progressing and letters were sent notifying Scott of the status of the project and the cancellation.”

Despite the cancellation of the deal, Mann said he is prepared to go forward.

“I feel (we’ve) done everything in good faith,” Mann said. “(The city) wanted to see this land developed a certain way and we did just that. We were ready to submit for permits.”

“The circumstances in those cases are on record. It was common knowledge,” Mann said.

Toledo said she could “confirm that the city was aware [of his criminal record].”

An attorney for landowner Kenneth Bohls Cousins Trust would not comment.

Major investment

Mann said his company, 88 North LLC, has invested as much as $1 million in planning and engineering fees. Mann, who is also a principal of Star Stream Capital, forged the agreement with the city, which included up to $303 million in property and sales tax rebates over 30 years, in exchange for creating the development and investing about $85 million in infrastructure.

Though he faults the city for unjustly yanking the project from his company, Mann directed his legal team to file suit earlier this month against the owner of the property. His company had not finalized the purchase from the Kenneth Bohls Cousins Trust.

In a complaint filed March 3 in Travis County District Court, Mann’s attorneys — Gray Reed & McGraw PC — allege that Phyllis Pastre as the trustee for the trust and another company, Green Island Investments LLC of Hackensack, New Jersey, committed fraud, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference, conspiracy and other charges. 88 North LLC is seeking exemplary and punitive damages.

J. Scott Jackson of Fishman/Jackson, the defendants’ attorney, said “the trust will answer the lawsuit in due course and expects that the lawsuit will be resolved in its favor quickly.”

Here’s what Mann’s attorney claims is the essence of the complaint: 88 North LLC hired Sikich LLP, a professional service firm, to identify potential investors and during that process introduced the development company to Green Island Investments. Proprietary information was supplied to the potential investor with an understanding of confidentiality, the lawsuit states.

“It now appears Green Island is trying to cut plaintiff out of the deal and execute its own deal with the trust and the city,” the lawsuit states.

It goes on to say that 88 North LLC submitted a sales contract and a $100,000 escrow payment to the trust before learning that the trust and Green Island “entered their own deal cutting out the plaintiff.”

Criminal past

During an interview Monday, Mann confirmed that he spent time in prison in the early 2000s in connection with a savings and loan fraud case that dates back to 1996 when he was an executive with Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas.

Mann said that the 1996 criminal case was intertwined with the federal government’s takeover and management of the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s and that many of the charges eventually were dropped.

He spent more than three years in prison. Court records show he was ordered to pay $460,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $11,587,000 in restitution to other parties.

Mann said a settlement was reached with the IRS in 2001, but the other restitution is still pending in the courts — almost 20 years later.

“The restitution settlement is awaiting court approval,” Mann said. “Contractual and other obligations prevent me from providing the information you have requested.” Additional information>>>