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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

Contact: Allen Spelce
R.J. DeSilva
(512) 463-4070

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2008

Comptroller’s Report Examines Economic Opportunities and Challenges in a Growing, Changing Texas


(AUSTIN) — In a report released today, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says to ensure the continued success of the Texas economy, the entire state and its communities will need to prepare for the opportunities in a changing economy. We must also confront the challenges of a growing and changing population and increasing demands for water, energy and transportation.

“One of my responsibilities as Texas Comptroller is to analyze factors affecting the state’s economy,” Combs said. “This report is designed to give local and statewide leaders detailed statistics and research that paint a full picture of where Texas stands today and how it is positioned for the future.”

Texas in Focus: A Statewide View of Opportunities examines cross-cutting issues affecting all regions of Texas — demographics, infrastructure, health care, education and economic development. It is the first in a series of reports, pulling data from different sources into one publication. Future reports will focus on issues directly affecting Texas’ 12 economic regions.

“These reports will examine each of the regions’ demographic characteristics, including population and education,” Combs said. “As with this report, the regional reports will look at the major issues facing businesses and communities, tailored in detail to each region.”

Each report will summarize the regions’ major industries and occupations. The series of reports will discuss specific economic factors for each region, identify growth sectors and project future growth potential.

“One of the roles of state government is to create an environment in which a healthy economy can flourish,” Combs said. “The purpose of these reports is to share our agency’s research on the forces driving change in Texas. We hope decision makers across Texas will use this information to give them an edge as they work to keep their local economies thriving.”

Demographics — Texas’ population is becoming older, more diverse and more urban. Of the estimated 23.5 million people who lived in Texas in 2006, 52 percent were 25 to 64 years old; those under age 25 accounted for 38 percent of the population; and 9.9 percent were 65 or older. The over-65 population is growing faster than the state as a whole. From 1980 to 2005 the number of senior citizens grew 65.7 percent, while Texas overall population grew by about 60.7 percent.

Since 2004, ethnic minorities are the majority of Texas’ population. By 2020, the Hispanic population is expected to outnumber the white population. Eighty percent of Texas land is rural, but 86 percent of its people live in urban areas.

Infrastructure — How Texas tackles infrastructure needs in water, energy and transportation will help determine its capacity for economic growth. Agriculture, other industries and urban and rural communities all require water. Careful long-term planning and conservation are needed to make a limited water supply serve a growing population. Demand for water is expected to increase 27 percent between 2000 and 2060.

Texas produces more energy than any other state, leading the nation in sectors like oil and gas, biodiesel and wind energy production.

Health care — Health care is closely tied to economic development. Health care is one of the fastest-growing segments of the Texas economy; but health care costs are a significant obstacle to many businesses and their employees who require medical care to work at peak efficiency. One in four Texans has no health insurance coverage. Only about half of Texas residents have employment-based insurance. Seventy-two percent of Texas businesses have fewer than 50 employees, and less than half of these small businesses provide health insurance to their employees, due to the high cost. Other health care issues impacting Texas include a shortage of health care professionals, particularly in rural areas, and the high cost and prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Education — Texas needs a well-educated population to handle the jobs that will drive the Texas economy in the future. Texas public schools educate about 4.6 million students, 20 percent more than a decade ago. Texas has enacted school accountability measures, curriculum reforms and tougher graduation requirements to ensure that high school graduates have the skills needed to succeed in college or the workplace. Career and technology programs at public schools and community colleges offer training that is more relevant to the state and local job market. Texas’ challenges include ensuring adequate public school funding, improving high school graduation rates and making college accessible and affordable for more Texas families.

Economic development — Texas communities and the state as a whole must remain competitive to attract new businesses and create more and better-paying jobs. In deciding where to locate or expand, businesses consider factors such as the skill of the work force; the quality of schools and infrastructure; and availability of grants, loans and other incentives. Many state and federal programs are available to assist local communities with economic growth. Among the programs offered by the Comptroller’s office is Texas EDGE (Economic Data for Growth and Expansion). Texas EDGE can run economic models and identify occupational and industry trends and their effects on the regional economy. Texas in Focus: A Statewide View of Opportunities can be found online at www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/tif/. The first regional report, focusing on the High Plains, is scheduled for release in spring 2008.

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