By Matt Goodman
Killeen Daily Herald
Between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009, Texas added an estimated 478,000 people to its population, according the latest figures from the United States Census Bureau.
No other state added more people during that time period; California was the closest and added 381,000, almost 100,000 fewer than Texas.
Experts and state officials say that it's a testament to how the state responded to the crippling recession that saw unemployment rates hit record highs and consumer confidence plummet throughout the country.
"There are jobs here, there's affordable housing here, there's a quality of life issue here," said District 54 state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen. "People are more comfortable, living lives as they seem fit."
This set of population estimates is the last time the Census Bureau will release statistics until the 2010 Census, which residents must fill out and submit to the bureau by April 1.
But the increase is encouraging, Aycock said, because it positions the state to expand economically through new residents. This is especially well-timed, as the state's unemployment rate sits below the national rate by nearly two whole percentage points: 8.1 percent in Texas, to 10.0 percent nationwide.
"We're still creating jobs," he said. "Growth creates jobs; without growth, job creation goes away."
The Killeen area has also seen a large amount of recent growth. The region sits just outside the Texas Triangle, which extends from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio. That region is believed to contain the most growth in the state.
In July, Baylor University announced research from a study that found Killeen to be the ninth fastest growing city in the nation with a population of more than 100,000. It grew almost 4 percent between July 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008.
"Our (growth) hasn't slowed down any at all," said John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. "Fort Hood plays a big role in that, because of the diversity they bring to the community. Most folks who leave Fort Hood … tend to be better educated and higher skilled than the average Texan."
Crutchfield believes the state will continue to grow based on the industry and economy within that triangle. But also, he said, the Texas government's balanced budget amendment, which prohibits the state from spending money it doesn't have, has created a more comfortable environment for businesses to thrive.
But in the upcoming legislative session, Aycock says that the state government could be facing a revenue reduction of up to $14 billion that legislators will have to work diligently to overcome without pushing the bill onto businesses and citizens by raising taxes.
"I think we've got to be careful that we don't put all of it into increasing taxes … and that temptation is always there," he said. "Look at reduction in spending; I think there are places we can squeeze out, if not the whole amount, a good chunk of it."
But Aycock and Crutchfield both agree that Texas, even though it entered the recession later than most states, will also exit earlier.
"I think that the period between getting in and out will be a good deal longer than what everyone is anticipating," Crutchfield said, "But I think Texas is going to be the last one in and the first one out."
Contact Matt Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7550.