Check out this article from the Austin American Statesman! There are 1,000 people moving to Texas every day. We are seeing the impact here in San Marcos.–Angie Cole
By Christian McDonald, Esther Robards-Forbes and Marty Toohey – American-Statesman Staff
SAN MARCOS —
Like a lot of graduates fresh out of school, Leticia Hurt was having trouble finding a job last year.
The 26-year-old had just graduated with a doctorate degree in pharmacy from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. But she couldn’t find any hospital positions for a pharmacist, so she turned her eyes to Central Texas, where her parents had moved two years earlier. While visiting, Hurt landed a job in Kyle at Seton Medical Center Hays. It was the first job she applied for in Texas. “I can’t believe how many jobs are open here,” she said.
That is a common story in San Marcos — perhaps the story in San Marcos — according to those who know the place. Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau seem to confirm the appeal of San Marcos: It is the fastest-growing city in the country.
Between July 2012 and July 2013, no city with more than 50,000 residents added a greater share of them than San Marcos. The Hays County seat, 28 miles south of downtown Austin, grew by 8 percent — a rate of growth so astronomical that it doubled that of the nation’s 10th-fastest growing city, Idaho’s Meridian. It is the second year in a row San Marcos was the fastest-growing city in the country.
The growth presents difficulties and opportunities for the city of 54,076 people. Citing prudent planning and a strong economy, the Standard & Poor’s bond-rating house raised the city’s credit rating earlier this month, which means the city can borrow money for civic projects at lower interest rates and, ultimately, carry them out at lower cost to taxpayers. But slower-than-expected growth revealed by the 2010 census meant some transportation projects fell by the wayside.
San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero said city leaders are trying to avoid planning mistakes that Austin has made. San Marcos’s growth “is not a recent phenomenon,” he said, adding that it was only when the San Marcos population passed 50,000 that people started to notice.
San Marcos wasn’t the only Central Texas city to see phenomenal growth last year, according to the newly released census data. Cedar Park (pop. 61,238) ranked fourth in the nation in population growth last year at 5.6 percent, while Georgetown (pop. 54,898) ranked seventh at 4 percent. Round Rock and Pflugerville grew by 3 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, continuing a years-long trend.
Other cities with less than 50,000 residents saw even more growth: Manor’s 8.5 percent growth would have topped the list, followed by Buda at 8.4 percent. Leander would have made the list at 7.2 percent, along with Hutto at 5.4 percent.
Georgetown has a charming courthouse square, an institution of higher learning (Southwestern University) and a smaller-town feel that comes with lower housing prices. As a result, it is attracting people from across the social spectrum, from retirees to young techies, said Mark Thomas, the city’s economic development director.
“I’ve heard so many times from people, ‘This reminds me of where I grew up or the place I used to visit when I visited my grandparents,’” Thomas said. “You feel like you are in a small town but have all the big-city amenities.”
The results released Thursday add depth to data on large cities and metro areas that the Census Bureau released in February. The Austin-San Marcos-Round Rock-Hutto corridor was the nation’s fastest-growing metro, with Austin the fastest-growing big city. On Thursday, the Census Bureau’s new data was accompanied by a national press release that declared, “Austin has been the capital of Texas since 1839, and in 2013 the area became the nation’s capital for population growth.”
Last year was no anomaly. In three-and-a-half years, Buda has grown 39 percent, Manor 26 percent, Leander 20.6 percent, San Marcos 20.5 percent, Cedar Park 18.4 percent and Georgetown 15.7 percent, according to Census Bureau data.
Like Georgetown, San Marcos has many of the amenities that Austin provides, on a smaller scale.
Situated about halfway between Austin and San Antonio, it offers job opportunities in both markets. But the average home is going for about $175,000 in San Marcos, real estate agents said. That is cheaper than most homes in Austin, and it gets most buyers a newer three-bedroom, two-bath home in a subdivision close to town or an older home on half an acre in the country, said Robby Roden of San Marcos-based 3Z Realty.
Then, there is the feel of San Marcos.
On a recent sunny weekday afternoon, students from Texas State University strolled along LBJ Drive past a burger joint, art house movie theater and several resale shops full of retro styles. The university sits just north of the lively downtown. Nearby, a pristine river cuts the city in half. It offers much of what Austin does, without many big-city hassles, said Hurt, the recent Florida transplant.
“I love this area because it’s so close to Austin,” she said. “But we still have everything here.”
Hurt said she plans to buy a home in San Marcos soon. And when her boyfriend finishes his pharmacy residency in Florida, he plans to move to San Marcos, too.
By the numbers, population growth among the nation’s fastest-growing cities with a population of more than 50,000, July 2012 to July 2013:
1. San Marcos, 8 percent
2. Frisco, 6.5 percent
3. South Jordan, Utah, 6.1 percent
4. Cedar Park, 5.6 percent
5. Lehi, Utah, 5.5 percent
6. Goodyear, Ariz., 4.8 percent
7. Georgetown, 4.5 percent
8. Gaithersburg, Md., 4.4 percent
9. Mount Pleasant, S.C., 4.1 percent
10. Meridian, Idaho, 4 percent
Population growth among Central Texas cities of all sizes, April 2010 to July 2013:
1. Buda, 39 percent
2. Manor, 26 percent
3. Leander, 20.6 percent
4. San Marcos, 20.5 percent
5. Hutto, 19.9 percent
6. Cedar Park, 18.4 percent
7. Georgetown, 15.7 percent
8. Kyle, 13.4 percent
9. Lakeway, 12.9 percent
10. Pflugerville, 11.16 percent
Why it matters
The influx of residents — and their dollars — helps support businesses and provide more tax revenue to local governments, which in turn can use the money for additional projects or services. But each wave of newcomers also adds to the strain on roads, water supply and other resources, leaving some cities scrambling to keep up.