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With its enormous size, vast array of natural resources and large population, Texas plays a significant role in the nation’s economy. Our vital and diverse economy has allowed Texas to weather the national recession better than most of the country.

Continuing success in the global economy will require economic growth and innovation, wise stewardship of our natural resources and access to high-quality health care and education for all citizens. State government must maintain an environment in which these requirements can be met.

The Texas Comptroller analyzes factors affecting the state’s economy and uses this information to prepare the biennial forecast of state revenue. Our economists keep a careful watch on the state, detecting changes as they occur and identifying trends that will affect our common future.

In January 2008, the Comptroller began a series of reports called Texas in Focus. The first report, A Statewide View of Opportunities, examined the entire state for issues affecting the economy as a whole. This study was followed by regional reports examining the local economies of the High Plains, South Texas, Central Texas, East Texas, Upper Rio Grande and Alamo regions, and now the Gulf Coast.

This eighth report in the series, Texas in Focus: Gulf Coast, reviews trends and issues affecting 13 counties in the eastern-coastal portion of the state, including the cities of Houston, Galveston, Huntsville, Liberty and Columbus (Exhibit 1).

The report examines the demographic and economic forces of change in the Gulf Coast region, as well as issues and trends in infrastructure, health care and education. We hope state leaders, county and city officials, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and the general public will find this report useful as they work to keep local economies thriving.

Exhibit 1

Gulf Coast Region

see alternative

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

View Gulf Coast Region description.

Topics explored in this report include:

Economic Development

Gulf Coast regional employment rose by 11 percent between 2004 and 2009. The agriculture, natural resources and mining sector grew the most during this period, with employment rising by 30 percent.

In 2009, Gulf Coast employers provided a total of 2.6 million jobs. The largest sector, trade, transportation and utilities, provided 21 percent of all employment in the region. Although Hurricane Ike resulted in thousands of lost jobs and employment disruptions, businesses recovered with strong job growth in 2009.

The Houston-area economy is among the world’s largest. In terms of gross product, the Houston economy alone stands 25th in the world, just behind Norway. Gross product for the Houston metropolitan area totaled $435.9 billion in 2008.


The Gulf Coast region is one of the state’s most populous areas, anchored by Harris County, with 3,984,349 residents in 2008. The Houston metro area experienced the nation’s second-largest annual population increase from 2007 to 2008, adding 130,185 residents. The region experienced an influx of new residents in the year after Hurricane Katrina that pushed its total population up by 182,031, compared with an increase of 110,374 in the previous year.

In 2007, the Gulf Coast region’s average personal income exceeded the state average by 24 percent, at $45,968 versus $37,083. And Houston-area metro counties exceeded the regional average. In particular, personal income in Harris County averaged $49,634.


The Houston area includes the headquarters of several major energy companies. The Energy Corridor west of downtown Houston is home to BP, CITGO, ExxonMobil, Shell and ConocoPhillips.

The Gulf Coast region also hosts NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), a complex that employs 3,400 civil servants and more than 13,000 contract employees. JSC supports the Houston area with an annual economic impact of $3.5 billion and 35,000 total jobs.

Four ports in the region process a large share of U.S. exports and imports. In 2008, these ports accounted for 15 percent of the nation’s oceangoing vessel calls and 5 percent of its waterborne foreign container shipments.

Health Care

The Gulf Coast region offers medical resources that attract patients and staff members from around the globe. Houston’s Texas Medical Center employed 72,600 in 2008, generating a regional economic impact of $14 billion.

In terms of square footage, Texas Medical Center is the 12th largest business district in the U.S., larger than Los Angeles’ downtown business district. Its M.D. Anderson Cancer Center consistently ranks as the nation’s top cancer treatment center. The Medical Center has helped private health care employment reach all-time highs.


With 1,535 public and charter schools, the Gulf Coast region educates about 25 percent of the state’s public school students. Keeping pace with demographic changes, the region’s student population rose by 13.7 percent or 139,989 students from the 2002-03 to 2008-09 school years.

Higher education also plays an important role in the Gulf Coast economy, with 25 institutions of higher education including five health-related educational centers. Nine of the region’s 13 counties offer campuses or facilities of higher education, led by Harris County with 16.

Recent enrollment growth in two-year higher educational programs outpaced that of public universities. From 2003 to 2008, fall enrollment at two-year public colleges rose by 14.6 percent, to 133,003 students, while public universities added 4.6 percent or 91,574 students.

Downtown Skyline and Buffalo Bayou, Houston

PHOTO: Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

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