By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
Waco expects the population to grow by approximately 18 percent by 2040, according to the Perryman Group’s study. Years ago, most students would come to Baylor, graduate and leave. As Waco grows, improves and offers more opportunities, that has begun to change.
More and more graduating students want to put down their roots in Waco, invest in the community and take advantage of the growing opportunities. The market for creative entrepreneurial enterprises has never been more open, and companies like Allergan have seen the city as a viable location. The city is preparing for developments in the suburbs by considering ordinances for subdivisions and planning investments in infrastructure like streets and the water system to support the population increase.
The Perryman Group, a reputable economic research and analysis firm based in Waco, reported in March 2017: “The Perryman Group expects the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area to expand by some 59,100 residents by 2040, for a total population of 323,000. The economy is likely to double in size as measured by output, and could accelerate more through effective planning and strategic investments.”
2018 Baylor graduate Kassy Martinez is the administrative management assistant for Anthem Group, an umbrella for Summer Ellis Bijouterie, the Praetorian building ( a historical building downtown on Franklin Ave), BRÛ and Anthem Studios. Martinez and her fiancé said they feel invested in the Waco community and want to continue that investment by leading in their church and serving the community. They said they love Waco’s cooperative, entrepreneurial culture.
“There’s something special about Waco. What we found was refreshing and genuine,” Martinez said. “Waco has a development mentality of ‘what more can I improve, what can I do?’ Waco is about empowering and encouraging … I think that’s something unique to Waco, and something cities like Austin may think they have, but don’t.”
Esmerelda Hudson, Waco’s city secretary, and the city staff and council are preparing for the increase in population as alumni like Martinez stay. They are ensuring that the city’s infrastructure is sustainable and works well as the Waco culture draws more people and businesses to settle in the city.
“Those are all significant infrastructure improvements that have to be made if we’re going to continue to provide that level of service throughout the community,” Hudson said. “[Streets, water and wastewater] are the stuff that is not really fun to look at, but are really important.”
The city council is not only planning to revamp the streets and water system so that it is ready for a heavier load, but for an overall expansion as well.
“There are several studies that are going on to look at future subdivision planning,” Hudson said. “That’s an important ordinance that the council’s asked for, and that’s planning for growth in the suburb areas.”
2018 Baylor graduate Allison Heefner said as she prayed about where to go post-graduation, she felt called to stay in Waco. Though she said she was glad she didn’t have to say goodbye to many of her friends who also stayed in Waco, she would have been happy to stay regardless.
“It just feels like the people in Waco are much more approachable than bigger cities like Houston or Dallas,” Heefner said. “There’s this camaraderie: ‘yeah we’re from Waco and yeah, Waco has its flaws.’ With people you’ve never met, with people that you’re close to, there’s this draw of ‘I’d really like to stay here.’ Even if all my friends moved away, and if there was nothing going on here, I’d stay.”