Texas’ Big Economy Sets the Stage for Post-Recession Growth Surge

Is there something special in the water in Texas?  After surviving the Great Recession in relatively good shape, the Lone Star State can claim that it has more jobs than it did two years ago, as well as the lowest unemployment rate of the 10 largest states at just 8.3 percent.  According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the state has created more jobs in the private sector – 724,300 in December of 2009 alone — than any other state in the last 10 years. Boasting the world’s 11th largest economy, Texas reported a gross state product (GSP) of roughly $1.25 trillion during 2009 as it expanded its presence in knowledge-based industries.  Additionally, Texas leads the nation in export revenues for the last eight years, shipping $163 billion in product last year.

“Texas, so far, is the big winner,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.  “Big Texas metros are doing well because they avoided a lot of the pitfalls of the housing boom and bust.”  Frey specifically points to Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston as high-growth cities with expanding economies, particularly in energy, technology, government and education.  Austin, Dallas and Houston are expected to experience a seven percent job growth rate over three years.  San Antonio, which is close to four military bases, is expected to experience an 8.32 percent increase in employment over the next few years.  What sustained Texas through the recession?  Civic leaders think it was the diversified economy, low taxes, reasonable regulatory rules, government incentives and funding, as well as a skilled, highly educated workforce.

Austin, for example, has long been a magnet for entrepreneurial businesses that thrive in Texas’ capital. “There’s an old saying in Austin:  If you come here and can’t find a job, start a new business,” notes Rebecca Melancon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance.  Austin’s Small Business Development Program is extremely supportive of would-be entrepreneurs with databases to research demographics, free counseling and even classes on how to operate a business.  Additionally, the “Keep Austin Weird” support for unique cultural events supports local businesses.  “The biggest thing our city does to promote local business is not something that city hall does.  It’s our culture.  We don’t want to be Anywhere, U.S.A, and we work hard not to be,” Melancon said.