Texas Continues to Grow
by Senator Troy Fraser
The Texas economy is surging almost a year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast as rebuilding spurs job growth, oil and natural gas production continue to ride high energy prices and Texas continues to lead the nation in job growth.
From 2001 to 2003, the state lost a total of 136,000 jobs, essentially reflecting the status of our struggling national economy after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Now our great state is riding high again. Texas, the nation's third-largest state economy, created 274,000 jobs last year, the highest total since 1998, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. And our 3% job-growth rate was twice that of the U.S. as a whole.
How did our state grow while others stalled? Several reasons can help explain. First, spending tied to an influx of 125,000 Louisiana hurricane evacuees aided the economy. After Katrina, apartments filled up, with the help of federal dollars paying living expenses. Production of building materials for storm recovery work in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and residential and commercial construction in the state also helped. Texas manufacturers got extra orders for glass, bricks, cement and other building supplies. The increasing presence of evacuees is given partial credit for an increase of $1.7 billion in sales tax revenue (based on April sales tax collections).
The surging energy industry has also aided economic growth. The number of active oil and gas drilling rigs is over 775. This is the first time since the mid-1980's that the state's rig count has exceeded 700. In addition, oil-field employment is surging again which only helps our economy.
Another reason Texas continues to outperform the national economy is our dwindling unemployment rate. Businesses are moving into the state and the ones that are already here are growing. The state is home to three major airlines all of which felt business drop after September 11th. Summer vacations and the business traveler have helped those airlines rebound to increasing traffic and fares, all of which benefit the state's economy.
Additionally, the state is once again benefiting from an increase in high-technology jobs. Several years ago, this job market experienced a lull, but it is once again growing. And because Texas is the number 2 manufacturing state in the country, we continue to attract new factories. Around the state, companies such as Samsung and car manufacturer Toyota are moving into the state with plans to hire hundreds of employees for their new facilities.
Job growth is also occurring throughout Senate District 24. Tigé Boats announced in January they were expanding its manufacturing center in Abilene. The company is in the process of building a 105,000 square-foot manufacturing plant, a 12,000 square-foot corporate office and an adjoining 18,000 square-foot product development and engineering facility.
The Temple Health and Bioscience Economic Development District, created by the Legislature in 2003, has brought about a boom in the technology business for the city. According to the Temple Economic Development Corporation, more than $21.7 million in expansion is being added to the Temple economy.
This type of economic growth is being seen across the state. Confronted with hurricane evacuees and our own hurricane last year, Texas continues to show why this is not only a great place to live but a great place to run a business. The State of Texas prides itself on being the best and brightest. Our state's economy shows why we can stand by that claim.
Senator Fraser represents a 21-county region in the geographic center of the state. He is the Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. He also sits on the following standing Senate Committees: Natural Resources, State Affairs, and International Relations and Trade.