Statesman – 3/24/2016
The Austin metro area is officially home to more than 2 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released Thursday.
From July 2014 to July 2015, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area — which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties — grew from 1,943,465 to 2,000,860, making it the fastest-growing metropolitan area with a population over 1 million for the fifth year in a row.
“That of course won’t be news to anyone who lives here,” said Austin’s city demographer, Ryan Robinson. “We’ve become so accustomed to that very high level of population growth being part of our daily existence.”
But having crossed the 2 million person threshold, it remains to be seen how the Austin metro area will respond to the challenges that come with this explosive population growth.
“We’re not the small, sleepy college town we once were,” Robinson said. “We’re a big metro area, and we have the problems that come with being a big metro area.”
Those problems aren’t limited to Austin’s city limits. Outlying areas and counties in the metro area have also begun to feel the boons and challenges of population growth.
In the past, city officials prided themselves on the fact that Austin was the last city in the country to go into the economic recession of the late 2000s and the first one out. Its creative sector — bolstered by artists, software engineers and lawyers as well as the real estate developers who moved here to build housing for the others — led to a diversified economy less prone to the fluctuations of the energy industry that capriciously looms over other Texas metro areas like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
“We’re hard-pressed to see that in Austin,” Robinson said. “What we’re seeing is a validation of the fact that Austin has by far the most diversified economy in the state.”