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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
April 17, 2008

Comptroller’s Report Examines Economic Opportunities
and Challenges in Texas’ High Plains Region

(AUSTIN) —A new report by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs offers a promising economic outlook for the High Plains region.

“Job expansion, a youthful population, abundant natural resources, innovative health care solutions and educated citizens will ensure the region’s economy continues to grow,” Combs said, as she released Texas in Focus: High Plains, the second in a series of reports highlighting economic development issues statewide and for individual regions of Texas.

The High Plains Region is made up of 41 counties, stretching from the Panhandle through the South Plains, including the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock. The Comptroller’s report provides information on the forces driving change in the region and examines factors that may affect economic development.

According to the report, job growth in the High Plains region will be similar to the state as a whole from 2002 to 2012, increasing about 19.5 percent. Job growth in the Amarillo area (22.1 percent) and in the Lubbock area (20.4 percent) will outpace the rural counties (16.4 percent).

Though agriculture and oil and gas have traditionally dominated the region, a broader economy is emerging from growth in the service industries. The fastest-growing industries in the High Plains through 2012 will be professional and business services, financial activities, education and health services and construction.

To provide the skills needed to prosper in an expanding and increasingly technology-based economy, the High Plains region is fortunate to have school districts that outperform the state average on many educational indicators and offer lower-than-average class sizes. The region also offers outstanding and affordable institutions of higher education, including Texas Tech University. The High Plains, like the state as a whole, must continue its efforts to serve an increasingly diverse school population and ensure all students obtain the education and training they need to succeed in a changing economy.

The High Plains region will benefit from the proposed Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor. The improved transportation corridor to move goods from the Mexican border to the central U.S. passes directly through the High Plains and will bring new jobs in construction, distribution, manufacturing and roadside services between now and 2030 and pump billions of dollars into the Texas economy.

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Over the next five years, the High Plains’ population is expected to grow by more than 50,000, or 6.8 percent. Growth will vary, with Amarillo’s population increasing by 12.4 percent, Lubbock’s population growing 5.2 percent and the rest of the region by 3.7 percent. The High Plains region has a greater share of residents between the ages of 10 and 24 than the state as a whole. A younger population means more people will enter the job market and fill many of the newly created service jobs.

As with any other region in the state, the communities of the High Plains face challenges, including rising demands for water, energy and transportation; the need for a skilled and educated work force to continue the success of the region’s economy; and increasing health care costs. Delivering health care is a challenge in the High Plains, with its widely dispersed rural population and a shortage of health care professionals. But innovations such as telemedicine and telepharmacy are shrinking the distances and helping ensure all residents have access to health care.

“One role of state government is to create an environment in which a healthy economy can flourish,” Combs said. “We hope local government officials, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and many others will use the report as a tool to stay on top of important issues as they work to keep their local economies thriving.”

The Comptroller’s office provides economic development information to local governments and other groups, as well as analysis of demographics, labor force and other factors that affect local economic growth. Using its Texas EDGE (Economic Data for Growth and Expansion) Program, the agency runs economic models and provides analyses that identify occupational and industry trends and their effects on the local economy. The Comptroller’s office also identifies opportunities for local governments to raise funds for economic development through property, sales and franchise tax revenues, exemptions and credits.

The Texas in Focus: High Plains report can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/tif/highplains/. The statewide economic report, Texas in Focus: A Statewide View of Opportunities, is also available online, and future regional reports in the economic series will be posted online as they are released.

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Find details on all the services of the Comptroller’s office at www.window.state.tx.us, including a transparent look at state spending at www.window.state.tx.us/wherethemoneygoes.

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