Despite local troubles, region fares better than most others

The State Comptroller's office recently published a "Texas in Focus" report on Central Texas, which they define as the area from San Saba to Madison counties (west to east) and Hill to Milam counties (north to south). Growth prospects for the area remain "favorable," the report states, with a predicted 10 percent jump in employment for the 20-county area.

Growth will be led by the Bryan-College Station and Temple-Waco areas, with the main industries of health care, agriculture and education being the main drivers. Milam County could benefit further, being closer to Austin Round Rock, which is not included in this "Central Texas" report.

What may also look attractive is the water source of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer—the largest fresh-water source in Texas north of the Gulf Coast aquifer. Though some wish to pump and transport this resource, as opposed to develop over it, it is still a usable resource and one planners must take extreme care not to over pump.

Coal, oil and natural gas continue to be important to the area as the state's energy demands increase annually.

Milam is also a prime spot for rail transportation, though capitalizing on that would take major investment.

The report states that per-capita income for Milam is about $22,000, just above the state average. This was likely lowered recently with the loss of 1,000 jobs at Alcoa.

Overall, the Central Texas jobs climate is expected to increase by 21 percent between 2003 and 2013. That's good news for us, having recently lost jobs. We still, however, can boast a well-trained, ready and willing workforce, which might look attractive to potential employers.

Sure, Rockdale lost a major employer and has challenges. But we will fare better than more isolated towns since people have the option of continuing to live here and commute to nearby jobs. We can also capitalize on our new school facilities and lower cost of living and help win more families to the area.

Bottom line is things aren't great right now, but they could be a heck of a lot worse.—K.E.C.

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2009-09-10 digital edition

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