Tracking the Brazos Valley's Growth

By: Meredith Stancik

In recent years Bryan-College Station has been recognized for being one of the fastest growing areas in Texas and one of the best places to live in the country.

Population is climbing and there's strong economic growth.

Something that experts say is partly fueled by the six other counties that make up the Brazos Valley. And as we found out, the outlook is very good for the entire region.

"A lot of good things are happening in our little slice of heaven and the Brazos Valley," Tom Wilkinson with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments said. "We have positive employment growth. We have improvements. Sales taxes for most of our government agencies are up. Schools are doing well, everything is good."

The Brazos Valley consists of seven counties; Brazos, Burleson, Washington, Grimes, Madison, Leon and Robertson.

Brazos County has seen phenomenal growth. It has Texas A&M which is the economic engine for the area and a growing bio-corridor that has national and international reach.

Population has grown by 33.8 percent since 2000 and over the next five years it's expected to climb another 6 percent.

Brazos may be the economic hub of the Brazos Valley, but Wilkinson says we wouldn't see this type of growth without the influence of the entire region.

"You don't have three medical facilities for just Brazos County," Wilkinson said "You can see the benefits of the growth in rural areas of Brazos County."

Take Robertson County where GATX Rail in Hearne, one of the country's largest companies specializing in repairing rail cars, is looking to expand. Plus, a national sheet rock manufacturer is looking to buy land possibly near Calvert and would provide 60 to 75 permanent jobs.

Charles Ellison has been the Mayor of Franklin in Robertson County for 29 years and is the newly elected county judge.

"I think they're the best they've in 10 years," Ellison said.

A lot of it can be attributed to a recent oil and gas boom.

"We don't have oil wells in the city limits but we get a lot of sales tax revenue from people coming on the account of oil and gas activity," Ellison said.

Robertson County's population has increased 5.7 percent since the turn of the century.

Out of the six outlying counties, Grimes County has seen the most population growth, percentage wise, over the last several years.

Since 2000 population has risen 13.5 percent, and that trend is expected to continue if Highway 249 is expanded from the Houston suburbs to Navasota.

Then there's Washington County which experts say benefits from a great reputation. It's the home of Blue Bell and Blinn College.

"There's a thriving manufacturing group and Blinn has a program to support that," Wilkinson said.

Washington County's population has gone up 13.5 percent since 2000.

Burleson County may have benefited the most recently from oil and gas production. The number of drilling permits issued increased from 24 to 161 in one year.

The county has seen a population increase of 4.9 percent since 2000.

And Madison and Leon Counties both benefit from their location along Interstate 45. Experts predict the counties will eventually be home to central distribution facilities for major companies. The two have also benefited from oil and gas production and are expected to do so in the future.

Madison County's population has increased 6.9 percent since 2000.

Leon County's population has gone up 12.1 percent in the same time period.

So what's in store for the future? All eyes are on a high speed rail project that's gaining traction.

"If that's within 20 miles of Bryan-College Station and within the region it's going to fuel huge economic growth, a game changer for this country," Wilkinson said.

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