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Urban Revitalization / Economy

Will Wynn is a sought-after speaker on the national and international stage. He consults with and advises a number of governments, utilities and private entities on issues related to downtown revitalization and economic development.

Will Wynn served as two-term mayor of Austin, Texas from 2003-09 as well as Chairman of the Board of Austin Energy, the 9th largest public power utility in the U.S. Under Wynn’s leadership Austin dramatically expanded both the requirements and market penetration of its green building program; nationally promoted plug-in hybrid electric cars; pushed for substantial upgrades to the International Energy Conservation Code; dramatically increased its renewable energy portfolio; announced its smart-grid initiative; and created a city-wide climate protection program of which Newsweek wrote “…the City of Austin has taken the reins. Its climate protection plan, unveiled last February by Mayor Will Wynn, is seen by environmentalists as the country’s most aggressive municipal initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.” Land use reform and building codes play a large role in the plan.

Mr. Wynn has over 20 years experience in the commercial real estate industry, beginning his career in 1984 with LaSalle Partners in Chicago. Later, he was Vice President and Land Manager for the prestigious 12,000-acre Las Colinas development in Dallas. Wynn’s private sector development experience in downtowns includes high-rise office buildings as well as two-story historic restoration projects. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute and believes that only through dramatically better (mixed-use and dense) land use practices can Austin, or any city, appropriately deal with challenges like traffic, air quality, public health and fitness, housing affordability and environmental/climate protection.

Prior to first being elected to public office in 2000, Mr. Wynn served as Chairman of the Downtown Austin Alliance, and has long been a leading advocate for transforming Austin’s urban core into one of the most vibrant in the country. Under his leadership, downtown Austin has seen unprecedented residential development and streetscape improvement, thousands of University of Texas students are moving within walking distance of campus, and the redevelopment of the 750-acre former municipal airport is seen as a model for sustainable large-scale urban infill development.

Austin Energy’s construction of its 52,000-ton capacity Downtown District Cooling System has helped spur an unprecedented amount of downtown high-rise residential development recently. There is now over 10 million square feet of new buildings tied into the ice thermal storage system that utilizes off-peak (disproportionately west Texas wind) power to cool. The new system has existing capacity for 20 million square feet of cooling.

In 2002, in the wake of a significant economic downturn, then City Councilmember Will Wynn chaired Austin’s Taskforce on the Economy. The three resulting initiatives involved: nurturing and supporting Austin’s creative class, particularly in live music, film and technology; reducing the bureaucratic burden on small business, primarily by reforming the land development code; and creating a standardized, transparent and predictable incentives program for attracting major employers.

The following year as Mayor, Wynn formalized the city of Austin’s large financial investment – as well as participated personally – in the Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Opportunity Austin’ program. This strategic marketing and recruitment program is disproportionately credited with helping to directly create over 100,000 net new jobs in Austin during its Phase 1 five-year implementation. Austin has led all US metro areas in job creation the past one, five, and ten-year periods.

Mr. Wynn received the Alliance to Save Energy’s prestigious Charles H. Percy Public Service Award; was named Austinite of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce; was named Energy Executive of the Year by the 9,000-member Association of Energy Engineers; was awarded Scenic Austin’s first annual Scenic Hero Award; was honored for Outstanding Achievement at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2007 Climate Protection Awards; and following Austin’s response to Hurricane Katrina, was named Local Public Official of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

Wynn graduated cum laude with a degree in Environmental Design from Texas A&M University in 1984. He also successfully completed the department’s optional and demanding three-year cooperative education work/study program working for Shefelman & Nix Architects. In 2006 he was named a Distinguished Alumni of their College of Architecture.

Will Wynn and his two daughters, ages 18 and 15, live in downtown Austin. Their electricity bill averages $50 per month (500 KwH, all from renewable sources). He walks to work and to most of his weekly errands. He welcomes questions about his carbon footprint.

Urban & Economic Development: Mr. Wynn’s Insights

If your organization would like to hear Mr. Wynn speak on topics such as downtown revitalization and urban and economic development, please submit a Speaking Inquiry.