Dallas-Fort Worth has gained more new residents than any metropolitan area in the country, adding more than 1 million people in an eight-year period.
The region’s population now tops 7.5 million, solidifying North Texas’ ranking as the nation’s fourth-largest metro area. It trails only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all of which are losing residents.
As for the state, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Texas gained more than 3.5 million people from April 2010 through July 2018. That’s the equivalent of 1,000 new residents a day — with a third of those settling down in D-FW.
Despite fears that Hurricane Harvey would cause people to flee the Gulf Coast, the Houston region also added 1 million new residents from 2010 to 2018. Austin’s metro area grew by just under 400,000 people, and San Antonio-New Braunfels gained 375,000.
People moving to Texas from other states accounted for more than 1 million new residents, the most domestic transplants of any state except Florida.
“We’ve drawn a lot of people from the other 49 states, and they’re attracted not only by the business environment but by affordable housing and good public schools,” said Tom Luce, founder and chairman of Texas 2036, a privately funded policy group that’s pushing state lawmakers to confront the issues that accompany growth. It’s raised $5 million to focus public attention on the state’s future education, health care, infrastructure, environment and public safety needs.
The factors that make the metro area an attractive place to live could be jeopardized if local infrastructure can’t keep up.
“It’s tough to win a national championship, but it’s even tougher to repeat,” Luce said. “The challenge will be remaining a magnet for business and talent.”
Suburban counties in D-FW grew at nearly twice the rate of Dallas County.
With a 29.7 percent increase in residents from 2010 to 2018, Denton County was the 19th-fastest-growing county in the nation, followed by Rockwall County at 20th and Collin County at 21st.
Though the urban core continues to add people, businesses moving into the suburbs have made places like McKinney, Frisco and Plano top destinations.
“If you look at the top 40 fastest-growing counties in the country, you have most of the suburban counties in the metroplex represented,” said Texas state demographer Lloyd Potter. “Most of their growth is from domestic migration, meaning people are moving from other states or within Texas.”
The most immediate effects of D-FW’s suburban boom can be felt on drives to and from work.
“It’s going to get more crowded, your commute’s going to get longer, and it’s going to get more expensive to live here,” said Dean Barber of Barber Business Advisors, a Dallas-based economic development consulting firm.
In the long term, cities will need more roads and more schools, and high demand could drive up housing prices. But the region has prepared for this growth for decades, said Chris Wallace, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission. He said Dallas has managed it better than other Texas cities.
“In Austin, it’s really hard to move from point A to point B, and there aren’t a lot of routes, so if they’re congested, you’re stuck,” Wallace said. “But here, there are lots of arteries to get from work to home and home to school, not just in Dallas and Fort Worth but in the high-growth suburbs as well.”
Business and government leaders from across North Texas are collaborating to grow smart, but expanding infrastructure costs money, he said. Luce said suburban growth can be especially vexing because “sometimes the tax base doesn’t grow as quickly as the need for new schools and other facilities.”
A bill limiting how much revenue local governments and school districts can collect from property taxes cleared the Texas Senate earlier this week.
SB2 would cap property tax revenue growth for counties, cities and special taxing districts at 3.5% per year, and school districts would be capped at 2.5% per year. The districts could exceed the cap if they held an election and voters chose to increase their taxes. The House will vote on the caps Wednesday.
Wallace said the revenue cap could hinder local development efforts.
“In a time of high growth, it’s our cities that are generating the revenue and the jobs and providing an environment that’s conducive to business,” he said. “These state caps would tie the counties’ hands when they need to provide resources to our businesses and citizens.”
Without out-of-country migrants, Texas would have grown by 800,000 fewer residents. Only Florida and California had more international migration.
Immigration was the primary driver of population growth for about 1 in 10 counties nationwide. In D-FW, Asians account for an increasing number of immigrants.
Neel Gonuguntla, president of the U.S. India Chamber of Commerce DFW, said the region’s diverse business community, low cost of living, educated workforce and central geographic location make it a top choice for businesses looking to relocate in the United States.
Gonuguntla said many immigrant populations, including Indian-Americans, have strong communities in North Texas. She said business leaders from India like to see Dallas’ cultural amenities, such as the Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Festival of Joy and other South Asian offerings.
“There is a lot of effort on the part of mainstream cultural organizations in North Texas to appeal to the Indian-American community,” Gonuguntla said.
About a third of Texas counties lost population over the eight-year period tracked by the Census Bureau. The most extreme population loss occurred in rural areas such as the Panhandle.
Potter said that decline was probably driven by young people leaving for jobs and education opportunities in urban areas, which also drives down the rural areas’ birth rates.
Expanding the state’s community college system might provide a lifeline to rural communities where young people are leaving town, Luce said.
“We depend on rural Texas for food, fiber and fuel,” he said. “And 3 million people live in rural Texas, so we need to make sure rural Texas is thriving as well as the urban areas.”
This is an original article by Stephanie Lamm, Staff Writer at Dallas News. A copy of the original article can be found here.