According to a recent New York Times article, nine of the 20 counties in the U.S. that have experienced the most development the last decade are in Texas. Prominent among them is Harris County. The article does not cite population growth. Rather, it relies on computer analysis of satellite imagery that detects the growth of impervious cover.
Analysis of Satellite Imagery Shows Land Newly Paved or Topped With Buildings
The Times cites the work of Santa-Fe-based Descartes Labs, which positions itself as a data refinery. The company trained a computer model to automatically identify newly impervious surfaces — land that appears paved or topped with buildings — in satellite imagery. It then produced dozens of paired images that show the effects of development. It also produced a map that shows where that development took place.
This Descarte map clearly shows the pattern in Texas. Each of the major cities looks like a bullet hole in the map with development splashing out ward…a ring of concrete.
Return of Suburban and Exurban Growth
The data suggests that the growth of suburbs and exurbs has returned. There was a brief hiatus of suburban development after the housing bust in 2008, which saw people returning to the inner city. But that trend appears to be over, according to this analysis.
I’m not sure if this should be a source of pride, alarm or both.
Texas Grows While Other Areas Lose Population
Many Rust Belt cities are experiencing population shrinkage. That presents another set of problems altogether. The Times article shows how several northern cities, including Detroit, are clearing thousands of dilapidated and abandoned homes. In the process, they are restoring pervious (natural) cover.
As luck would have it, another article in The NY Times the next day talked about a slowdown in U.S. population growth. Population grew at its slowest pace in decades in 2019. A decline in the number of new immigrants, fewer births and the graying of America accounted for the decline, which the Census Bureau estimated.
Given slow population growth on the national level, local growth in Texas and Houston must come from migration. I’m not talking about foreign immigration. I’m talking about one area attracting residents and businesses from another.
Texas Has Seven of Fifteen Fastest Growing Cities in U.S.
In marketing, if the market itself is not growing, the only way for a company to grow is to steal share from its competitors. And that is exactly what Texas seems to be doing. Markets such as New York and California are losing population while Texas gained more than 14% in the last decade. From 2010 to 2018, Texas had the largest population growth in America: 3,555,731.
Texas also had 7 of the top 15 fastest growing cities in the country between 2017 and 2018.
So clearly, from a marketing point of view, Texas must be seen as a desirable place to live by many people. We’re doing many things right.
Can Texas Meet the Challenge of Rapid Growth?
But in my 45 year career in marketing and advertising, I have seen many instances where companies had record growth one year only to have record losses later. It comes down to how you manage growth.
Can you deliver what you promise and keep product quality up as you grow?
Many areas can. Many areas can’t.
County officials face a conundrum: growing rapidly while maintaining quality of life. You want to attract growth, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed by it.
Montgomery Vs. Fort Bend Counties: Strategic Differences
Some compete for growth by relaxing regulations. For instance, this video from the East Montgomery County Improvement District boasts, “We don’t have rules that confine us.” The no-hassle upfront, anything-goes, follow-your-dream approach tempts many, especially those coming from other areas with onerous regulations.
Meanwhile, other fast-growing counties, such as Fort Bend, are adopting new flood plain regulations, designed to protect the quality of life they are selling.
Tougher Fort Bend County Regulations Went Into Effect New Year’s Day.
As of 1/1/2020, Fort Bend County adopted new Atlas 14 rainfall statistics and updated their drainage criteria manual accordingly to protect new homes AND existing downstream developments. Fort Bend is the fastest growing county in the region.
There you have it. Two opposite ends of the spectrum.
It will be interesting to see the outcomes that these two development strategies produce ten years from now.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/2/2020
856 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 104 since Imelda