Tyler is changing, the official Texas state demographer said Thursday, and it’s happening at an increasing rate.
Tyler is one of only two areas in Texas in which the average age is decreasing. At the same time, the population is booming due to younger families moving in for economic opportunities. The result, demographer Lloyd Potter told the Tyler Economic Development Council’s annual luncheon, will be a “population rectangle” in Texas by 2050.
For years, demographers have cited a population triangle in the state - Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin and San Antonio, and over to Houston. But population growth in East Texas will soon make that a highly populated rectangle.
“We’re growing more than any other state,” said Potter, who was appointed to his position in 2010. “The (population scale) curve is geometric, and it’s compounding. That’s what the Census data is telling us - we’ll keep growing.”
The three urban areas are attracting many of the migrants from other states and other countries, but many others are finding their way to East Texas.
“Smith County grew by about 2,000 last year,” Potter said. “About half of the growth was from domestic migration. There are a lot of people moving here because of economic opportunity.”
They’re shifting the demographic nature of the region, he added. But it’s not just young families moving in who are changing the face of Smith County; it’s also the effects of the aging Baby Boom of non-Hispanic whites.
“If you live here and drive around, you have a sense of this already,” he said. “Non-Hispanic white Baby boomers aren’t being replaced by younger cohorts. They’ll slowly be replaced by Hispanics.”
This reflects the larger trends in Texas, he added.
“There is a real shift in the racial and ethnic composition of the state,” Potter said. “The shift is due to the rapid growth in the Latino population. But also, the Asian is small, but growing very quickly… if current trends hold, by 2050 you could see Asians exceed the African-American population in Texas.”
What the trends demonstrate is the need to provide for a well-educated workforce, Potter added.
“Higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs are increasing, while lower skilled, lower-pay jobs are declining,” he said. “This emphasizes for us how much we should work to ensure we have a skilled labor force. We need more and more people with certificates and associates degrees and bachelor’s degrees.”
He added that Tyler is a rarity, in that its population is actually getting younger (as an average).
“It’s a result of domestic in-migration,” Potter explained. “People who move in to Smith County, seeking economic opportunity, tend to be younger, and they tend to be in their reproductive years. They’re in family-building mode. That brings down the average age.”
At Thursday’s luncheon, Tyler Economic Development Council President and CEO Tom Mullins reported on the council’s efforts during 2016.
Fifteen projects were completed in 2016, which resulted in 216 new jobs and 1,507 jobs retained, with total investment of more than $45.5 million.
“The city of Tyler saw an increase of 11.9 percent in building permits,” Mullins noted. “But sales tax revenues were down 3.5 percent. We feel the decline is due primarily to the energy sector and online sales.”
The unemployment rate in Smith County held steady in 2016 at 4.5 percent.
But at the same time, the area lost an estimated 87 primary jobs.
“This is normal activity in any economy, and it reinforces the need for us to continue to work to bring in new ones,” he said.
Looking to the future, Mullins said at least three companies are considering relocating to Tyler, including a telecommunications firm with an estimated 800 jobs, a medical device firm with 125 jobs, and a local manufacturer looking to expand and add 50 jobs.
The big news so far for 2017 is the announcement that Sanderson Farms will make a $200 million investment in three facilities in East Texas, with an estimated 1,700 jobs, Mullins said.