If you're looking for cities where the population, jobs and household income are growing -- imagine that -- then head for Texas. Or Tennessee, North Carolina or Georgia. They are among a small group of states that have shown surprising expansion, despite the recession, according to a survey on the nation's highest-growth areas. The study, dubbed "9 from 2009," was conducted by Little Rock, Ark.-based data firm Gadberry Group, and included only areas larger than 10,000 occupied households that met certain growth requirements.
The reasons these nine cities managed to grow amid the bruising recession is that they have booming industries, stable housing markets and quality-of-life amenities, such as good schools and proximity to jobs and recreational areas.
"Texas cities rank high because the state has a diversified economy that has been carefully nurtured," said Henry Cisneros, chairman of the development firm CityView and a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "The state has strong tourism; a military presence that's growing, including military medicine, biosciences, energy, transportation, and a strong minority segment that provides service businesses."
In December, Texas posted an unemployment rate of 8.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the national rate hovered at 10%. The Lone Star State has led the pack in energy employment for the last decade.
So, let's take a look at Texas, shall we? It produced four of the nine cities that made the Gadberry list. Atascocita, about 20 miles from Houston, added 1,800 households last year, up 8% from 2008 and 108% over the last decade. Average incomes rose from $79,054 to $99,272 in the last 10 years.
Why the growth spurt? An excellent school district and a short ride to a major city certainly help. Katy, Mansfield and Wylie, Tex., also made the list. Mansfield was chosen by CNN/Money magazine in 2009 as one of the country's "best places to live."
Buckeye, Ariz., which today has about 18,000 households, saw its household number grow 261% over the last decade. With its wealth of new-housing communities, it's one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. A major attraction is the low cost of real estate. The city has become a magnet for Asian residents, whose population grew 1,957% from 2000, with Vietnamese residents making up 28% of Asian households.
Folks flocked to Spring Hill, Tenn. -- it grew by 7,645 households in the last decade -- because of affordable housing and employment opportunities at General Motors. That plant is now closed, so who knows what 2010 will bring?
Wake Forest, North Carolina, was ranked by Forbes in 2007 as the 20th-fastest growing U.S. suburb, with households expanding 118% in the last decade. Other cities that made the cut were Lincoln, Calif., and Braselton, GA.
Apparently, there really is a ray of sunshine in this gloomy economic environment. You just have to saddle up and make the move.
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