Austin, Round Rock among nation’s fastest growing cities

July 2, 2012

Austin, Round Rock and Texas, my how you keep growing.

Among the fastest-growing U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more, Round Rock ranked second, and Austin ranked third, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report out today, the first population estimates of the nation’s cities since the 2010 census.

Round Rock grew by 4.8 percent and surpassed the 100,000 mark, with 104,664. Only New Orleans, still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, had faster growth among large cities, at 4.9 percent.

Austin grew by 3.8 percent to crack the 800,000 mark, at 820,611. Austin is now the nation’s 13th-largest city, up from No. 14 in 2010. It swapped spots with San Francisco.

Austin appears poised to catch two cities ahead of it on the list: Jacksonville, Fla., and Indianapolis, with populations of 827,908 and 827,609.

Texas cities dominated the list of the nation’s fastest-growing large cities, occupying eight of the top 15 spots, according to the figures, which the Census Bureau said cover the period between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, and are produced using housing unit estimates.

The latest data offer more evidence that Texas’ rapid population growth, a signature story of the past decade, is continuing.

“It’s another piece in the ever-evolving story: We continue to be at or near the top of the list of fastest-growing cities in the country,” said Ryan Robinson, the City of Austin demographer. “This isn’t new to us. It’s been going on for decades.”

Still, the census estimates exceeded Robinson’s own population projection of 812,000 for April 2011.

In terms of numerical growth, Austin’s 30,000-plus gain ranked fourth in the country. New York topped the list, followed by Houston, which added 45,716 people since 2010, and San Antonio, which added 32,152.

According to census estimates in April, the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metro area ranked as the nation’s second-fastest growing metro area between April 2010 and July 2011, with a 3.9 percent population increase. Those estimates put the Austin metro area’s population at 1.78 million.

Robinson said the newest population estimates confirm Austin’s paramount role in the overall growth of the Central Texas region.

“Austin is why people move to Central Texas,” Robinson said. “They want a piece of that specialness. That specialness is being driven by job creation and quality of life.”

Robinson said the census figures validate the growth trajectory forecast that formed the basis for the Imagine Austin plan, a blueprint for managing growth. The plan, approved by the City Council this month, generally promotes more densely populated neighborhoods in the urban core as a way to curb sprawl.

The city heard criticism that the population and employment forecasts at the heart of the plan were overly ambitious, Robinson said.

“It’s certainly the curve we thought we were on,” Robinson said. “Everything we’re looking at points to more growth.”

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