Mike Berry: What’s Driving the Growth in North Texas?

Recently released U.S. Census data revealed what many of us have known for quite a while: the Dallas-Fort Worth region has been the lead driver of the incredible growth that Texas has seen during the past decade. Although the growth has been widespread throughout North Texas, much of the concentration has been within Fort Worth’s city limits. Since 2000, the City of Fort Worth has grown by more than 38 percent, adding more than 200,000 new residents to achieve a total population of 741,000. Most of that population expansion is taking place in the north Fort Worth corridor around AllianceTexas, where available jobs are driving rooftops and residential growth.

Moreover, the census ranked Fort Worth as the fastest-growing large city (those with a population greater than 500,000) in the entire United States for the past decade, and Tarrant County, in which Fort Worth is located, grew by more than 25 percent during the period, adding more than 350,000 new residents. With numbers like these, it is factually correct to say that North Fort Worth is now the fastest growing area in the nation. Although this kind of growth would be incredible at any time, what is even more remarkable is that much of it happened during the recent economic downturn.

W. Michael Cox, director of the William J. O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at SMU’s Cox School of Business, recently gave a presentation to the North Texas Commission regarding the changing demographics of Texas. The presentation, “Looking for the New New World,” was a follow-up to his (and Richard Alm’s) much discussed (in real estate and economic development circles) 2009 essay, “The Ascension of DFW: How to Keep a Good Thing Going.”

Both reports offer a glimpse into the individual components that have spurred this extraordinary migration to Texas, while analyzing cities that have seen a rapidly declining tax base and population, coupled with severe unemployment. Using empirical data to analyze net migrations from state to state, “Looking for the New New World” illustrates what Texas is doing right.

So what did Cox and Alm discover? Essentially, they find that there are just six factors that are driving net migrations throughout the nation, and all but one of them can be attributed to a state’s economic philosophy and policies. At this point, I probably don’t need to tell you who the big winner is, and rather than re-write the essay myself, I’m just going to provide a link to it here. I know you’ll find the essay to be a fascinating look at our national economic picture. Moreover, it makes a strong case for other states to embrace the free market economic policies that have contributed to our success here in Texas.

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