A growing population, changing demographics and an ongoing need for quality education and creative transportation strategies all await Tarrant County in the years to come, according to the speakers featured at United Way’s Economic Summit Feb. 10.
Fort Worth alone adds a new resident every 25 minutes and is predicted to have a population of one million by 2025, said David Berzina, Executive Vice President of Economic Development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Part of this growth will be fueled by the new Chisholm Trail Parkway that opened last year. “It’s a game changer for all of us,” he said. Projects involving 10,500 acres of new development “will transform Southwest Fort Worth.”
The Trinity River Vision project will use three bridges to provide access to 800 acres of developed land north of downtown Fort Worth. “That will take us forward for the next 50, 60, 70 years,” David said. A master plan to transform the Fort Worth Stockyardswill roll out this summer, he said, putting the Stockyards “in a position to be relevant for many years from now.”
From the continued success of the Alliance area, with its 400 companies, to the new Chisholm Trail Corridor, “Fort Worth doesn’t put its eggs all in one basket” geographically when it comes to economic development, David said.
Bill Meadows, Chairman of the Commission for High-Speed Rail in the Dallas/Fort Worth Region, noted that the Dallas/Fort Worth area led the nation in job creation in 2014. Job growth, population growth, and the increase in the number of motor vehicles on the road have had ramifications that must be addressed, he said. “We’re at a point where we don’t have the capital to meet the transportation infrastructure needs of this area and the state,” he said. “We have got to have a legislature that recognizes this reality and that provides a reliable, predictable source of capital to meet this need.”
Bill said “we’ve learned to be creative” in using public capital to leverage additional dollars to meet transportation needs. He cited the Chisholm Trail Parkway as an example of a public private partnership. Even so, “roadway infrastructure is never going to be sufficient” to meet the needs of Texas’ growing population, he said. Rail projects will help, he said. “The DART system is the most extensive light rail system in the United States,” he said. “We certainly lag behind on the west side of the Metroplex, and that’s going to be one of our challenges in the future.” Another rail option is high speed rail connecting Texas cities. “It’s a 200-mile-an-hour technology,” he said. “It will happen. It’s just a question of when it will happen.” Texas, he concluded, “must aggressively pursue” additional, alternative modes of transportation.
The ramifications of Texas growth continued in the remarks of Dr. Steve Murdock, current Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University and former Director of the U.S. Census Bureau and State Demographer of Texas. (See link to his PowerPoint presentation below.) Texas has always grown faster than the nation as whole, and “we’re continuing to have very large population growth,” he said. “Without immigration, we would have very little growth,” he said, noting that Texas immigration “is not primarily undocumented immigration.”
More notable than Texas’ population growth is its changing race/ethnicity, Steve said. “We became a majority minority state between 2000 and 2010,” he said. In 2010, non-Hispanic whites were 45.3% of the Texas population. They accounted for only 10.8% of the population growth between 2000 and 2010. The race/ethnicity shift is evident not only in Texas, but nationally; in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, Steve said.
Differences among groups when it comes to income and education are cause for concern. In 2010 in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metropolitan Statistical Area, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks were 3 times more likely to live in poverty than non-Hispanic whites and earned about 40 and 44 percent less, respectively.
During the same year, the percentage of Texans age 25 and older who were high school graduates and higher also showed disparity:
- Non-Hispanic whites: 92.0%
- Non-Hispanic blacks: 86.4%
- Hispanics: 59.6%
- Non-Hispanic Asian and “Other”: 87.1%
Education level is a large predictor of income, Steve said. “Education pays. As education goes up, household income goes up, even for laborers.” If Texas is to be successful in the years to come, it must ensure that “all Texans have the skills and education they need to be competitive,” he said.
“I’m confident we can and we will,” he added. “The future of Texas is tied to the future of its minority populations, and how well they do is how well we will do.”