Civic Engagement Makes Companies Great

Supply bins lay beside the road as they fill up quickly with school supplies ultimately bound for underprivileged schools. The 6th annual school supply drive run by Samsung was going to be another rousing success. Across town, the CEO of Silicon Labs leads his employees in preparing Martin Middle School’s classrooms for the first day of school. In Austin, being a successful business takes more than just high profit margins. It takes dedication to meaningful community impact.

Austin Business Journal recently released their Best Places to Work results for 2017. Among the list are Silicon Labs, RetailMeNot, and WP Engine, all of whom take a leadership role in giving back to Austin. As Austin continues to grow and expand, I look to companies who want to see Austin succeed. That is why my office hosts a group of companies that are dedicated to supporting our community. The Corporate Engagement Council (CEC) is a public-private association that discusses corporate giving, shares and develops best practices in the industry while engaging businesses in important city conversations.

In honoring companies that celebrate our community, and through the CEC’s work, we’ve found three common components of companies that enable them to thrive in Austin: community, support, and resources.


Austin is a unique place made up of locals and transplants alike, and we are united by a sense of passion for our community. What I love about this city is the sense of ownership for an inclusive, giving, and kind culture, and through the CEC, we’ve determined that that sense of ownership can be attributed to intentional steps taken by local companies.

Successful companies, either those born and raised in Austin or those who have assimilated into Austin, made it a priority to engage the community. Companies such as National Instruments and Samsung purposely chose Austin as a place to conduct business, and they feel that allowing the community to become a core part of their business is key to success in this city.

“Samsung Austin Semiconductor is a proud to invest millions of dollars to build up our local Central Texas community. We originally chose Austin for the variety of local talent and surrounding universities to recruit from. We consider it our duty to serve and build up others around us. Through our philanthropy and engagement opportunities, we enjoy hosting students and community leaders to our facility and telling our Samsung story in Austin.” –Julie Fisher, Senior Community Affairs and Public Relations Specialist, Samsung Austin Semiconductor

The City of Austin is filled with nonprofits in need with ample volunteer opportunities, so it is important and easy for companies to take a leadership role in fostering employee engagement in this capacity. Championing your employees to be involved and engaged in the community is paramount to building both a strong company and strong reputation.

“NI started in Austin mainly because all of our founders lived here! We came to UT Austin to go to grad school, and ended up meeting and working at UT Applied Research Labs at Balcones Center (now known as the J.J Pickle Research Campus), first part-time as grad students and later full-time. We founded NI in 1976 and moonlighted while we continued to work at ARL for another 3.5 years. We all liked Austin and wanted to stay here, so there was never any question about where NI would be headquartered.

NI is proud to be a home-grown Austin company with an ongoing connection to UT. Austin as a city has a vibrant, innovative and inclusive culture, which matches our corporate culture, and our employees are naturally involved with, and give back to, the local community around us.” –Jeff Kodosky, Cofounder of National Instruments and NI Business and Technology Fellow


The second pillar to a successful Austin company is support. Companies who provide their employees with the ability to vote or voice their preferences when it comes to giving, offer more support for a focused giving platform, and foster a deeper relationship among employees.

“At RetailMeNot, our core values reflect a desire to build a community of innovative, transparent, inclusive employees and we open the door to that opportunity through our RMN Gives program. One way we ensure our employees are connected in this endeavor is an open-door policy on bringing new opportunities to the whole company for involvement. This approach allows our employees to take a leadership role in the things they are passionate about.” — Marissa Tarleton, CMO, RetailMeNot

By allowing employees to voice their interests or preferences in philanthropic efforts, the community will naturally rally around shared areas of interest and grow. By building up what matters to the employees, companies ultimately build up the entire company and create a culture of giving.

“People, and in particular Millennials, want more out of work than just a paycheck,” said Leo Ramirez, Jr. CEO and founder of the Giving as a Service™ (GaaS™) platform by Encast. “Employee engagement programs elevate the work experience and bond employees more closely to the company. When employees are given the opportunity to engage with charitable causes in their community, for example, they build stronger relationships with co-workers, more deeply value their jobs, and stay longer. This creates a happier, more productive workplace that attracts talent and drives profitability. It also improves a company’s brand image and that’s critical in world where 91% of global consumers believe a company should do more than make a profit.”


The last key component of the Corporate Engagement Council is the ability to use each other as sounding boards, cross-marketing opportunities, or partners in larger projects. Above all else, it’s the ability to share resources and ideas on how to best engage employees in the larger quest for giving. Austin’s continued sense of community engagement can be fostered with a sense of partnership among local companies and in turn, those companies’ employees support for the community.

Our hope is that as Austin continues to expand, our companies continue to flourish by encouraging their employees to get connected to local volunteer efforts, support each other in advancement of common causes and, for our CEC member companies, be a guiding light for other companies looking to expand on their community outreach programs. For more information on the Corporate Engagement Council, please contact my office.