Sometimes, good things come together in an economy in a way that can greatly enhance future prosperity. I’ve been around Waco for a long time (since 1971) and the things I see happening right now are creating one of those “filled-with-potential” situations. With downtown and the river area revitalizing, industry expanding, workforce growing and tourists visiting, the stage is set for Waco to enter a new phase of improving quality of life and economic vitality.
Waco has much to offer businesses and potential residents such as several quality higher-education options; a location in the midst of a large workforce pool and easy access to the state’s large population centers; available land for development including numerous business parks; a variety of incentives for business growth; parks and other recreational activities; a historic downtown district which hosts events throughout the year; and future undertakings including the upcoming riverfront development among many other amenities.
At the moment, the unemployment rate in Waco is trending below the state and national levels, and I think the area will continue to see healthy growth. I am forecasting the metropolitan area (which includes McLennan and Falls counties) to expand by some 59,100 residents by 2040 for a total population of 323,000. The economy is likely to double in size as measured by output (real gross product) and could accelerate more through effective planning and strategic investments.
This expansion will generate a need for additional infrastructure of all types. In fact, without infrastructure improvements, quality of life in the city could decline and momentum for economic growth could be interrupted. At the same time, investments now in Waco’s infrastructure will help to continue expansion that can benefit the entire city and region.
In answer to current and projected needs of the Waco community, the city of Waco has embarked on a 10-year capital improvement project that will renew and expand essential parts of Waco’s infrastructure. Specifically, the program looks to invest $139 million in wastewater projects, $131 million in water projects and $50 million in street improvements. The main goals are to “maintain Waco’s quality of life, foster economic growth and increase long-term sustainability.”
Investments such as these not only serve the community well but also generate an economic stimulus. In fact, I estimate that when multiplier effects are considered, the capital investment program construction process will involve total economic benefits of $470.5 million in real gross product and 5,726 person-years of employment. Moreover, the program can reasonably be expected, at maturity, to support about $100 million per year in additional activity in the Waco area.
In recent years, Waco has seen significant growth and economic development momentum. The city of Waco is taking many important steps to foster economic growth in the city and surrounding region, transforming Waco into an increasingly attractive destination for new businesses, tourists and workers looking to relocate. These investments enhance the attractiveness of Waco as a site for business activity and can materially impact future growth in a positive manner.
As cities have become increasingly strategic toward economic development and now aggressively compete for new activity, many municipalities view proactive infrastructure investment as an essential part of preparing for future growth. With both the private and public sectors working together, sustainable economic growth is possible. Waco has many key initiatives in place, which, combined with the city’s unique characteristics, have the potential to produce sustained growth in the area.
Looking ahead, I see good things for the Waco area. As someone who has built a business and spends much time in the area and as an economist who has studied communities throughout the world, I am glad to see the direction things are going for this city. I think there is reason to believe that Waco will continue to emerge as the next great Texas city.