Waco economy, population expected to rise

Waco offers a variety of local food trucks, and it was determined by The Perryman Group that Waco will expand by the year 2040. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Waco is quickly racing toward becoming a bigger and more developed city, says a recent economic report from The Perryman Group.

The report shows that Waco’s metropolitan population will grow by 22.4 percent, and the economy is expected to double, all by the year 2040.

“Waco’s economic growth is based on a mix of businesses which include both large and stable industries such as higher education and health care as well as emerging sectors such as advanced industries and research,” Ray Perryman, president and CEO of The Perryman Group, wrote in an email to the Lariat. “Tourism has increased, and downtown revitalization is contributing to future growth.”

The Perryman Group is a Waco-based economic and financial analysis firm, and Perryman said he has been producing an economic forecast for the Waco area for over 30 years. The report is based on an econometric model of the United States and Texas that was developed about 35 years ago and is updated and expanded as necessary.

Through the model, Perryman predicted the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area consisting of both McLennan and Falls county is likely to expand by about 59,100 residents by 2040 – a 22.4 percent population increase. In measuring gross product, Perryman predicted the economy doubling in size measured by output. With effective planning and investments, Perryman said growth could accelerate even more.

“The city of Waco is planning and investing in the infrastructure which will be needed for the additional residents and business activity,” Perryman wrote in an email. “Without sufficient water supplies and treatment, roadways and other needed infrastructure, quality of life for current residents could be negatively affected, and economic growth could be stifled. The forward-looking actions by the city of Waco are positioning the area for long-term prosperity.”

City Manager Dale Fisseler said tourism has had a huge impact on the local economy. Waco’s location between Dallas and Austin helps too, as the drive-through time has decreased and the visiting time has increased with the growth of all three metropolitan areas. With the influx of tourists and the resurgence of downtown, the economy has been able to take off. Fisseler believes that as older buildings get re-developed and infrastructure is replaced, this growth will continue.

“The best way to plan for growth is to plan for growth,” Fisseler said. “We don’t want to be caught short-handed like other cities in terms of infrastructure and water and sewer lines. We just finished a comprehensive plan for the city which will help us prepare for the growth that is expected.”

Fisseler said the city council has made it a priority to focus on the sewer systems and storm water as new developments and construction come in. Lots of resources are being spent on the aging infrastructure, which will result in better outcomes down the road, according to Fisseler.

“It’s a great time to be in Waco,” Fisseler said. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in the last five years, and I think they’ll continue to accelerate. There will be tremendous changes in the next 10 years.”

A 10-year program has been laid out to replace the water, sewer and storm water systems with the street rehabilitation planned. Fisseler said that as Waco grows and updates, there is no fear about it becoming too big. Fisher said that the city of Waco has realized its time has come to grow, so preparation is key. The city is growing in terms of quality of life, as the new plans for growth focus on bringing in the things people like about major metroplexes without the downside of congestion and low air and water quality, Fisseler said.

“Wonderful things are happening in Waco, and I’m proud of the hard work of both public and private sectors to build strong relationships, develop strategic plans and maintain our precious resources for current and future generations,” Kyle Deaver, mayor of the city of Waco, said in a press release sent to the Lariat. “This third-party analysis demonstrates Waco has positioned itself to become the next great Texas city.”