This past Tuesday, June 23, I gave a speech to a gathering of bankSNB directors and clients on the San Antonio regional economy. I provided an update on how the San Antonio economy is doing through April and compared it to the U.S., Texas, and other major metropolitan economies in the state. In short, San Antonio’s economy continues to grow at a healthy clip, and I expect the growth to continue through the rest of the year. One graphic that really jumped out to me was the rapid rate of increase in single-family housing prices, especially in Dallas and Fort Worth. This is certainly something worth watching going forward. If you are interested in looking at the presentation, it can be found here.
There is some thought that the San Antonio and Austin metropolitan areas will eventually grow together and become one mega-region. I know some people that regularly commute to and from Austin and San Antonio for work and pleasure. A few people I know even make the commute daily for work. I have made several drives up and down I-35 to Austin for both business and pleasure. So, there are certainly economic linkages that have already developed between the two metropolitan areas. A few economists have even speculated that the Texas triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston will become a mega-region. I think this is too large of a geography for much economic integration to occur over the next couple of decades, but what about the development of a San Antonio-Austin mega-region?
Population growth in both San Antonio and Austin has been strong over the past decade and is projected to be strong for the next couple of decades. This growth in cities like San Marcos and New Braunfels, which sit in the middle of what would become the mega-region, has been even stronger and will continue to grow rapidly.
Based on my observations of growth in the region, I think the creation of this mega-region will occur over the next couple of decades, but I wanted to see if the population projections supported this. I pulled data from the Office of the State Demographer showing the projected population growth from 2015 through 2035 in all of the counties that would comprise the mega-region. The following table shows these projections, which support the conjecture that the mega-region will develop. (The Dallas-Fort Worth numbers are included only for comparative purposes.)
|San Antonio-Austin Mega-Region|
|County||Major City||2015 Population||2035 Population||Growth Rate|
How economically integrated this region becomes is another question, though. In my opinion, just expanding the highways or adding new highways so more cars can travel back and forth will not facilitate more integration. It will be necessary to add rail between San Antonio and Austin with several stops in between and complementary rail service of different types at both ends of the region. It is also going to be vital that the development of the downtowns in both Austin and San Antonio continue. In other words, it will require an integrated, comprehensive transportation system throughout the region in order to achieve the large economic benefits from the creation of this mega-region.
Last weekend, my family and I had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Indigo – a very nice hotel and great value. The hotel sits right across the River Walk from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and while we were at the pool, a rainbow appeared above the hotel and the Tobin Center. I immediately ran and grabbed our camera to see if I could get some good shots before it disappeared. In fact, a bunch of people staying at the hotel very quickly gathered on the patio by the pool to take pictures. The header photo to this blog is one of the photos I was able to capture. The full picture of the header photo along with a few others I captured are shown at the bottom of this post. You can also see some pictures and read about my wife’s perspective on the events at her blog: http://www.livinsassy.com.
I have done several economic analyses of the impacts of various new facilities, redevelopments, and transportation projects. It is a lot of fun to do these studies, as I love crunching the numbers, but as the Tobin Center was being built, I came up with the idea of studying the impacts it would have on development in the immediate area. I have done quite a bit of cultural planning and analysis of the interplay between the arts and economic development, but I have never had the opportunity to follow the impact of a facility like this on economic development over time. The difference with this analysis is that I would track the development over the years photographically. I can complement the photographs with the numbers later, but I think it will be great fun to use the camera as a tool in the analysis. I will be able to pursue two of my passions – photography and economics – all in one project. As previously mentioned, this idea came to me while the Tobin Center was being built, so obviously, I have been procrastinating in getting this project started. The beauty of the rainbow, the Tobin Center, the Hotel Indigo, and being with my family and my daughter’s great friends this past weekend provided me the inspiration and motivation to finally get to work on it. So, the project has officially begun. I will post more soon about how you can follow it. This is a long-term project, as the development will not occur overnight, so if you do plan to follow the project, please be patient. I am confident the development will occur, and as it does and as I am able to capture it with my camera, I will post the pictures and my thoughts. It will be fun!