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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
May 5, 2009

Central Texas Positioned for Speedy Economic Recovery

(Austin) — Jobs in the Central Texas region will increase slightly in 2009 while Texas as a whole suffers job losses due to the struggling national economy, according to projections in a new report by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

Looking beyond the national recession through 2013, Central Texas will see overall job growth of 21 percent, similar to statewide growth, led by Bryan-College Station, Temple and Waco.

“The region faces the same challenges as other areas of the state,” Combs said. “A struggling national economy is slowing the pace of growth and development; but Central Texas’ strongest economic engines — health care, higher education and the military — are relatively recession-proof, allowing the region to maintain stability through the recession and continue expanding when the national economic climate improves.”

Combs released Texas in Focus: Central Texas, a new report providing a detailed economic outlook for the 20-county region between the Colorado and Trinity Rivers that includes the cities of Waco, Temple and Bryan-College Station. The report examines the region’s economic development, demographics, infrastructure, health care and education — key issues that present both opportunities and challenges for the Texas economy.

Texas in Focus: Central Texas is the fifth report in Combs’ Texas in Focus series designed to equip local decision makers and business leaders with vital information to help plan for economic growth. The full report can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/tif/central.

The counties in the Central Texas Region are Bell, Bosque, Brazos, Burleson, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Grimes, Hamilton, Hill, Lampasas, Leon, Limestone,  Madison, McLennan, Milam,  Mills,  Robertson, San Saba and  Washington.

From the report…

Regional industries, such as professional and business services, agriculture, natural resources and mining, should grow by 30 percent from 2003–13, despite setbacks and fallout from the current credit crisis. Anticipated expansion in other sectors includes leisure and hospitality, up 32 percent; construction, up 22 percent; and manufacturing, up 8 percent.

Health care is one of the fastest-growing industries in Central Texas. Health care occupations are generally high-paying. In Waco, the top 10 private employers include two hospitals and a home health care company. In Bryan-College Station, the top 10 private employers include three hospitals. The 10 largest employers in the Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood metro area include a hospital and a home health care company. Central Texas is home to two Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals serving the large population of Fort Hood soldiers and military retirees.

Fort Hood, one of the largest military installations in the world, contributed $10.9 billion to the Texas economy in 2007. The base has 53,000 assigned soldiers and a population of more than 92,000, including nearly 18,000 on-post family members and another 82,000 family members living off-post. Additionally, more than 245,000 military retirees and survivor family members live in the area. Military contracts bring jobs to the region and the military population requires homes, schools, health care and other services — generating even more jobs and economic activity.

Besides providing a skilled work force for Central Texas employers, higher education itself is an important employer, with 11 colleges and universities operating 15 campuses. Enrollment in the region’s higher education institutions has risen nearly 19 percent since 2000, with four-year schools growing 8 percent and two-year schools growing 37 percent.

Ranching contributes more than $1.5 billion to the Central Texas economy each year. Every phase of the beef cattle industry is represented in the region. Central Texas once had many small dairy producers as well, but the dairy industry has consolidated into large operations and shifted to other parts of the state.

One of the nation’s most important trade routes, Interstate Highway 35, bisects the Central Texas region and is very attractive to new businesses. Two major railroads and three smaller rail companies transport goods through the region as well.

The Central Texas region has a younger and more rural population than the rest of the state. Nearly a quarter of the people live outside a metropolitan area, compared to a statewide rural population of about 13 percent. In 2008, 40 percent of the region’s residents were under 25 years old, with many falling into the 20-24 age group.

From 2001 to 2006, per capita personal income in Central Texas grew more rapidly than the state as a whole. Coryell County led the region, with a nearly 56 percent increase, followed by Lampasas County (44 percent) and Bell County (36 percent). Per capita personal income in McLennan and Brazos counties increased about 23 percent. Statewide, per capita personal income rose 21 percent.

The Comptroller’s office offers local officials and business leaders a wealth of economic data tailored to local needs. To get started, visit www.window.state.tx.us/texasedge.

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