For years, Central Texas has seen ripples of population growth with Austin at the center.
“Without question, you essentially see this concentric movement outward from the urban core,” State Demographer Lloyd Potter said last month at the Texas Demographic Conference.
“Look at some of the smaller areas – even farther north on I-35 – they’re all beginning to pick up in terms of growth," he said. "If you’re going to go out slightly east to Manor, it’s starting to pick up growth pretty dramatically, so I think that trend is likely to continue.”
But Potter said all that urban and suburban growth has occurred alongside population losses in the state's rural counties. He points to West Texas, where the recent loss of oil jobs has driven people away. Population loss there is also driven by what's called natural decline – that is, more people are dying than are being born there.
Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t been the case for any Central Texas counties. Potter said Bastrop is the only county that had a drop in population from one year to the next during the last six years, though it quickly rebounded.
“Bastrop also had the fire, and I think that might have been one or two of the years there that people were somewhat displaced from that," he said. "But yes, if you look at Bastrop versus the West Texas counties, there’s really no comparison in terms of the economic and population dynamics there."
So, who’s moving to the counties that surround Travis? Potter said much of that growth comes from domestic migration – people moving there from other parts of Texas or from other states. He said as demand grows, rural areas are essentially becoming suburbs.
Adena Lewis, the director of Tourism and Economic Development for Bastrop County, agrees. Lewis said the area’s infrastructure is working to keep pace with growth.
“We’re really blessed because our two main highways, Highway 71 and Highway 290, have both either received developments and improvements, or they are already on the books and happening," she said. "So our main arteries are making great progress.”
Lewis thinks that growth would have been even stronger, if it weren’t for the wildfire in 2011.