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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2008

Comptroller’s Report Examines Economic Opportunities
and Challenges in Upper East Texas

(AUSTIN) — The beautiful scenery, unique recreational opportunities and small-town family appeal of Upper East Texas have served the region well and will continue to provide steady economic growth, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said today.

“The Upper East Texas region’s economic outlook is good, growing at a strong and steady rate paralleling the growth of Texas as a whole through 2012,” Combs said. “The region is blessed with abundant natural resources and a comprehensive infrastructure system to help attract business and facilitate future economic growth.”

Combs released a new report, Texas in Focus: Upper East Texas, which provides information on the forces driving change in Upper East Texas and the factors that may affect economic growth in the region. Upper East Texas consists of 23 counties in the northeast corner of the state, including the cities of Tyler, Longview and Texarkana. The report examines the region’s economic development, demographics, infrastructure, health care and education.

According to the report, job growth in the Upper East Texas region will be similar to the state as a whole from 2002 to 2012, increasing by more than 20 percent. The fastest-growing industries will be financial services, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, construction, and educational and health services — all seeing 20 to 40 percent job growth by 2012. The Longview metropolitan statistical area (MSA) will see the highest rate of job growth (23.7 percent), followed by the Tyler MSA (22.9 percent) and the Texarkana MSA (19.4 percent). Delta County, the only Upper East Texas county that falls within the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington MSA, is expected to experience the region’s highest job growth rate, at 30.4 percent.

The Upper East Texas population is older and more rural than the rest of the state — demographic characteristics that play a prominent role in the regional economy. In 2007, the 65+ age group accounted for 15 percent of the region’s population, compared to 10 percent of the Texas population and 12.5 percent for the nation as a whole. Forty-six percent of the region’s population lives in metropolitan counties. By contrast, 87 percent of all Texans live in metro areas.

Capitalizing on its mature population, the region promotes itself as a retirement destination. Seven communities — Athens, Longview, Pittsburg, Texarkana, Winnsboro and the counties of Franklin and Panola — have been certified through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Certified Retirement Community (CRC) program, which assesses the amenities communities offer senior citizens, such as

health care, affordable housing, recreation, educational resources, public safety and the community’s tax structure. The CRC program assists communities with marketing and economic development aimed at attracting retirees.

The rural character of Upper East Texas is one of its economic assets. The region has more than 30 lakes and reservoirs, six state parks and abundant wildlife. Hunting, fishing, boating, camping and other outdoor activities attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and pump millions of dollars into the regional economy.

Agriculture continues to be an economic engine for Upper East Texas. Horticulture, timber, and dairy farming show continued strength. Agriculture-related industries such as food processing and food distribution provide many jobs in the region.

Some of Texas’ largest oil, natural gas and coal reserves lie beneath the Upper East Texas region. The East Texas oil field is the largest and most productive oil reservoir in the contiguous U.S. There are active oil wells in all but three of the region’s counties. Upper East Texas is also home to two of the state’s top 25 producing natural gas fields. Six of Texas’ 13 operating coal mines are in Upper East Texas, supporting nearby electricity generating plants and industrial facilities. The region’s mineral wealth should help it sustain strong economic growth for many years to come.

The region’s transportation system supports economic expansion, with two major interstate highways, a proposed international trade corridor, hundreds of miles of rail and two commercial airports. Like other Texas regions, Upper East Texas faces the challenge of maintaining and expanding this infrastructure to continue serving the growing population and expanding economy.

To supply the region with skilled workers, the Upper East Texas region has a higher percentage of schools that are state-rated as Academically Acceptable or better and a lower percentage of Academically Unacceptable schools than the statewide average. Seventeen colleges and universities serve the region, including Texas A&M-Texarkana, the University of Texas-Tyler, five private universities, eight community colleges and two private, two-year colleges.

Texas in Focus: Upper East Texas is the fourth in a series of Texas economic reports to help local government officials, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and many others stay on top of important issues as they work to keep their local economies thriving.

“Despite some slowdowns, Texas’ economic position remains strong,” Combs said. “Our diversified economy has helped buffer the national downturn, and we can still boast many strong economic indicators, as negative forces in the national economy have not substantially affected Texas. Our state continues to grow, generating new jobs and providing better opportunities for its citizens to prosper, and Upper East Texas is no exception.”

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 helps local governments identify opportunities to fund economic development and infrastructure improvement projects.

The Texas in Focus: Upper East Texas report can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/tif/uppereast. The statewide economic report, Texas in Focus: A Statewide View of Opportunities, is also available online, along with other regional economic reports in the Texas in Focus series.

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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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