A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that, from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013, five of the ten fastest-growing cities of 100,000 or more population in the nation were right here in Texas. The Lone Star State captured spots #1 (Frisco), #2 (McKinney), #3 (Austin), #5 (Midland), and #10 (Denton).

Ray Perryman
Ray Perryman

Frisco, which grew 16.9 percent during the period, lies just north of Dallas and is continuing to grow both in population and economy at an astounding rate. In 1990, Frisco was a small, relatively rural town. As of the U.S. Census on April 1, 2000, the city had a population of only 33,714. By July 2013, Frisco’s population reached 136,791. Despite a common impression that people are flocking to the urban centers of Texas, it is also the suburbs that are experiencing an influx of workers. Even though many residents of the city commute to Dallas for work, a substantial number of companies have chosen to expand their operations in Frisco. Top non-government employers in the city include AmerisourceBergen Specialty Group, Oracle, and Kenexa, an IBM Company.

A large part of the recent success in Frisco is due to the comprehensive development plan the city initiated, which allowed the city government to buy land in anticipation of future growth and budget accordingly. Additionally, the Frisco Economic Development Corporation was responsible for recruiting more than 190 companies to move to the city, resulting in over 23,000 jobs since 1991 and potentially over 12,000 jobs since 2009. As of December 2014, the city has more than $5 billion in new developments planned, and given the continued investment, Mayor Maher Maso has predicted that the population could trend toward 300,000.

Second only to Frisco, the city of McKinney is also experiencing unprecedented growth. According to the Census Bureau, the city’s population stood just over 54,000 as of the April 1, 2000 census. With the number of residents now exceeding 148,000, McKinney has become one of the most populated suburbs in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. From 2010 to 2013, the city grew 13.3 percent. Similar to Frisco, much of the influx of residents can be attributed to a booming economy in Dallas. However, there are thousands of jobs in McKinney alone. For example, Raytheon employs approximately 3,600 people in the city, whereas the McKinney Independent School District employs 2,600 and Encore Wire Corporation employs over 1,000.

The third fastest-growing city on the Census Bureau list is the city of Austin. Austin grew 12.0 percent from 2010 to 2013, as the center city to a vibrant area of smaller communities and cities which are also expanding. Austin is far and away the largest city on the list, adding 95,010 residents to reach 885,400 by July 2013. Technology-oriented businesses have been a key aspect of this expansion.

The city of Midland, unsurprisingly, has grown from the surge in the oil and gas industry in Texas, expanding 11.5 percent from 2010 to 2013. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 10-year period from 2003-2013 “mining, logging, and construction” sector jobs in the Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area grew by 131.7 percent, from approximately 10,400 to roughly 24,100. The trend continued in 2014, beginning the year with approximately 25,200 jobs in January and ending with an estimated 28,400 in December. The oil industry is notoriously cyclical, and the pace has slowed significantly over the past few months.

Denton rounds out the Texas cities in the top 10, with growth over the 2010-2013 period of some 8.6 percent. Like the other rapidly growing cities north of the Metroplex, Denton benefits from the dynamic economy of the huge urban centers to its south. Denton has also developed its own industrial base, and continues to serve as a desirable location for business.

However, despite the enormous growth in Texas’ urban and suburban locations, much of Texas’ rural population has been on the decline and is expected to fall further over the following decades. Of the state’s 177 rural counties, only 12 exceeded the state average growth from 1980 to 2010. In fact, 78 of those counties actually lost residents during this period. As the agricultural industry continues to shift from labor to technology, people are expected to continue the decades-old pattern of migrating towards more heavily populated areas and the job opportunities they offer. A study by the Texas State Demographer projects that 29 counties, mostly rural, will have even fewer residents by 2050, and 10 of them are projected to decline between nine percent and 45 percent. Thus, although Texas has witnessed a population boom over the past few decades and will likely continue to experience expansion in the years to come, the state’s rural areas have been relatively stable or even declining.

While the overall growth of the Texas population over recent years is not much of a surprise given the strong economy and opportunities for jobs in booming oil and technology sectors, it is nonetheless impressive how Texas is dominating national growth even in areas removed from the oil patch and, in particular, just how rapidly some of our mid-sized cities have been emerging.