Cities in Central Texas continue to grow, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A report of 2012 population estimates shows the Killeen-Temple metro area — which includes Killeen, Harker Heights, Nolanville, Belton and Temple — had a total population of 420,375 people. That number is up 7,985 from 2011’s count of 412,390 people.
The bureau’s data also ranks the Killeen-Temple area 124th in overall population nationally, and 59th in population growth this year.
The continued growth means that cities must plan ahead to meet the needs of their growing populations.
“It’s a challenge and an opportunity,” said Steve Carpenter, city manager for Harker Heights. “Growth in our area happens very fast, so you need to be able to plan to accommodate that.”
Carpenter said the area’s population growth poses a particular challenge to Harker Heights since the city is surrounded by other cities, including Killeen and Nolanville.
“We can’t grow indefinitely. We’ve got about 28,000 people now and we can grow to about 40,000 or 50,000,” he said. “So we really have to look at sustainable growth.”
That includes everything from planning for growth in commercial and residential areas, as well as utilities such as water and sewer.
“We just try to create a positive environment, so people come to our city to shop or live,” Carpenter said.
Temple also is trying to meet the needs of the area’s growing population and will continue to have an “aggressive” capital improvement plan, said City Manager David Blackburn.
“We have invested and reinvested in our transportation, water and sewer infrastructure,” Blackburn said. “Some examples of projects include the $50 million construction of NW Loop 363, coordination with TxDOT on the expansion of I-35, airport redevelopment and our (Transportation Capital Improvement Program.)”
In addition to the Killeen-Temple metro area, several other Texas cities, counties and metro areas also showed significant growth, according to the census data.
The data showed that 40 of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas are in the South or West. Eleven are in Texas.
The Dallas metropolitan area, which includes Fort Worth and Arlington, added 131,879 people during the last year, more than any other in the nation, raising its total to 6.7 million.
The Houston metro area increased its population by 125,185 to 6.2 million.
The two Texas cities gained more people than the Seattle, San Francisco, Miami and Phoenix metro areas combined.
The Midland metropolitan area was the fastest-growing region in the country with a 4.6 percent increase in the one-year period. Neighboring Odessa was fifth, growing at 3.4 percent. Most of their growth is due to the high demand for workers in the oil fields caused by the energy boom across the Great Plains.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.