July 5, 2022

‘Small town’ Texas is booming

Population growth in Texas’s big metro areas grabs so much of the attention when we think about population growth across the state. And in the recent past, growth in metro suburbs has generated a lot of buzz.

But as a Texas native, I’d be doing a disservice if I overlooked growth in many of the state’s communities with smaller populations.

“If you think about it, small towns have formed the identity of our great state,” says Chuck Harris, executive director of the Texas Exes, the alumni association at my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin.

These days, these booming communities of Texans might be the state’s best-kept secret. And it might surprise you how much these communities have grown in the past 10 years and how much they’re contributing to the Texas economy.

MoveBuddha, a platform for consumers wanting to hire movers, recently did a deep dive into population trends in Texas. Among the many facets of our population, moveBuddha examined the 10-year growth rate of towns that had fewer than 10,000 residents in 2010.

Not surprisingly, all of the small Texas towns experiencing the most explosive growth from 2010 to 2020 are in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas:

  • Fulshear (Houston), 1,368% growth.
  • Iowa Colony (Houston), 330% growth.
  • Liberty Hill (Austin), 285% growth.
  • Manor (Austin), 225% growth.
  • Josephine (Dallas-Fort Worth), 220% growth.
  • Celina (Dallas-Fort Worth), 217% growth.
  • Dripping Springs (Austin), 199% growth.
  • Melissa (Dallas-Fort Worth), 189% growth.
  • Prosper (Dallas-Fort Worth), 182% growth.
  • McLendon-Chisholm (Dallas-Fort Worth), 171% growth.

Impressive numbers, right?

So, why are the populations of these cities popping so much?

As moveBuddha points out, people are settling in smaller communities situated in Texas’s large metro areas to take advantage of an attractive cost of living while still enjoying access to big-city amenities. This helps our economy by giving new arrivals and longtime residents a robust quality of life and proximity to metro-area jobs.

Some of these fast-growing communities are helping drive the state’s economy in other ways, though:

  • Methodist Health System is scheduled to open a $200 million hospital in Celina in 2025. A $120 million hospital from Medica Development LLC is in the works there, too.
  • Dripping Springs, which promotes itself as the “Gateway to the Hill Country,” continues to fuel success in the tourism sector. As the official Wedding Capital of Texas, Dripping Springs hosts more than 1,000 marriage ceremonies each year. The city also attracts wine aficionados, bird watchers, outdoor enthusiasts and other visitors.
  • Riding growth that’s being propelled by several master-planned communities, Fulshear is looking to the future. The town approved its first-ever economic development strategy in 2019 and is preparing to welcome a 125-acre, mixed-use development.
  • McLendon-Chisolm toasted the opening in 2021 of the 25-acre Rosini Vineyards, and Tate Farms, just east of the town, hosts the annual Texas Pie Fest.

As some folks bemoan what they perceive to be the fading of small-town Texas, it’s worth celebrating the small towns that are on the rise. And they’re not just on the outskirts of major metros. Some small towns in less-populated metro or micropolitan areas around the state and in rural swaths of Texas are enjoying economic progress.

Case in point: The Walton Family Foundation in 2019 ranked three Texas micropolitan areas among the country’s 20 most dynamic micropolitan areas: Pecos topped the list, with Fredericksburg at No. 10 and Uvalde at No. 11. Pecos (about 75 miles southwest of Odessa) and Uvalde (almost 85 miles southwest of San Antonio) have benefited from oil-and-gas exploration, while Fredericksburg (roughly 80 miles west of Austin) draws thousands of Hill Country tourists each year.

“As American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, Main Street America — and its small towns — is a central component to understanding the economic forces at work across the United States,” the Walton Family Foundation observed.

And if data from moveBuddha and other sources is any indication, a number of Texas’s small towns are an economic force to be reckoned with.