Ray Perryman

Ray Perryman presents a new study to Waco leaders Tuesday. The study by the Waco-based Perryman Group projects the area’s economic output will double by 2040.

City and county leaders saw a sunny picture of the local economy’s future in a study by The Perryman Group, a Waco-based research and analysis firm.

Waco’s economic output will likely double by 2040, largely thanks to the city’s long-term infrastructure commitments, according to the study. The Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area also will grow by 59,100 residents to about 323,000 people, a 22 percent increase, according to the study. The Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area includes McLennan and Falls counties.

Economist Ray Perryman announced the findings during a press conference Tuesday at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative.

“(Infrastructure) is kind of like the skeleton of the body,” Perryman said. “You don’t always see it, but it’s very important. If you don’t have it, you can’t really do very much.”

Every dollar in infrastructure spending will bring in $3.13 in total local spending, the study found.

The study also points to Waco’s 10-year Capital Improvement Project, which will invest $139 million in wastewater projects, $131 million in water projects and $50 million in street improvements. Those investments should “maintain Waco’s quality of life, foster economic growth and increase long-term sustainability,” according to the city.

Transportation projects, including an Interstate 35 upgrade and a “bus rapid transit” system, would support projected growth in the area, according to the study.

“The Dallas area is finally growing south, and Austin has been growing north for awhile,” Perryman said. “That distance is much shorter now, mobility seems greater now than it was then, and the congestion is worse in those places than it was then. And the premium on accessibility is much greater now than it was then.”

City Manager Dale Fisseler said he is impressed by the report.

“It verified what I was hoping, which is that these are good investments for the city,” Fisseler said.

He said Waco’s bond score upgrade last year to AA-plus “reaffirms that we’re going in the right direction with our infrastructure.”

Economic boosts, including momentum with downtown developments, also contribute to the study’s findings.

Magnolia spotlight

Magnolia Market at the Silos draws 20,000 visitors in an average week, and 1.2 million people visited in 2016, the study found.

“We’re fortunate that ‘Fixer Upper’ and the success of Chip and Joanna Gaines have shined a national light on Waco the last few years,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said. “And now a lot of people in the nation understand what a great place Waco is and are wanting to move here. In fact, we’re seeing that on a regular basis.”

Other factors working in Waco’s favor include quality of higher education options, availability of development-ready land, business incentives, parks and recreation activities, and ongoing riverfront development.

“I think Waco has a very good future,” Perryman said. “I think a lot of things are going right, and I think this infrastructure is a very important piece of it.”

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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