Leaders from the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) presented their annual State of the Region report today at a membership luncheon held at the Marriott Austin Airport South Hotel and reported that, so far, the ten-county region is performing well against the backdrop of a global recession.
Making the regional report were Betty Voights, Executive Director, who discussed CAPCOG’s strategies for the coming year and Brian Kelsey, Director of Community and Economic Development, who presented an analysis of regional trends.
“Job growth between October 2007 and October 2008 in the Austin-Round Rock region was 1.9%, outpacing most of the leading U.S. metro areas.” said Kelsey. “Job growth right now is well below where we’ve been the last few years, but it’s a good sign that Austin-Round Rock will stay relatively competitive during the tough economic times ahead.”Population growth in the CAPCOG region has averaged 45,000 per year since 2000. Kelsey pointed out that in 2001-02, the last time the region was shedding jobs at an alarming rate, the ten-county area still added 32,000 new residents, indicating the region’s ability to attract companies and talent from around the U.S., regardless of where the economy stands.
According to Ms. Voights, CAPCOG will be focused on air quality in 2009, among other priorities, in order to stay within standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “We have made significant progress through voluntary measures adopted to improve our region’s air quality,” Voights said. “If EPA designates the region as non-attainment, then our entire regional competitiveness will be affected, everything from economic development to transportation planning.”
Other highlights from the report:
* The Capital Area grew from approximately 1.3 million to 1.7 million residents between 2000 and 2008, an increase of 26 percent.
* For every 100 residents added to the region between 2000 and 2008, 22 were in Austin and 11 were in Round Rock. On average, 17 out of every 100 new residents were in unincorporated areas of the counties.
* One out of five Capital Area residents lives in a rural area. CAPCOG’s rural population grew by 56,190 in 2000-08.
* On average, 57% of new residents in Travis County and 65% of new residents in Williamson County come from other places in Texas. California makes up only a small percentage of the total number of people moving to the region each year.
* Unemployment rates in the Capital Area are for the most part below both the state and the national averages. However, the number of unemployed people in the region increased 40% between October 2007 and October 2008, and is at its highest point since 2003.
* The Austin-Round Rock metro area is one of the strongest performing housing markets in the U.S. right now, in terms of price stability. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight ranked the region #1 in 2008Q3, among the nearly 300 metro areas the agency tracks. Average housing prices in Austin-Round Rock were up by 5.6% between 2007Q3 and 2008Q3, according to the agency.
CAPCOG also presented The Jack Griesenbeck Leadership Award to Caldwell County Judge H.T. Wright for his service on the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC). Past recipients of the award have been Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin; Neal Kocurek, former chairman of the Envision Central Texas project; Robert Huston, Chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Ray Sanders, former Mayor of Lockhart and Chairman of CARTPO; Bob Daigh, District Engineer of Texas Department of Transportation; former Senator Gonzalo Barrientos; and last year’s recipient, Mike Simpson, City of Austin Wireless Communication Services Manager.
The award is named for the first chairman of CAPCOG, former Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck who understood the need for regionalism and still supports it today. Judge Griesenbeck was the first chairman of CAPCOG in 1970 and has also played a key role in the creation of the Texas Association of Regional Councils, the state association serving 24 councils of governments.
by David Partlow
Capital Area Council of Governments