“People move for jobs and they want to live in a beautiful place and Fort Worth has both,” said chamber of commerce official David Berzina yesterday in response to the latest report on the city’s population growth.
The Census Bureau reported Thursday that Fort Worth added an estimated 14,643 residents from July 2012 to July 2013. The number of new residents is the 13th-highest numerical increase among U.S. cities and increases the estimated population to 792,727. Fort Worth dropped one spot to No. 17 among most-populous U.S. cities, according to Census Bureau reports. Charlotte, N.C., moved to No. 16 with 135 more residents than Fort Worth.
“First, it’s Texas,” Berzina said in a telephone interview. The state is recognized and admired for its pioneering reputation and “known as a place where business thrives.” And the Dallas-Fort Worth region is one of the “largest business markets in the state, with a diversified economic base” that includes energy, high tech, logistics, life science and manufacturing. “Employees from all over the country know they can come here and find employment.”
Also, Berzina said, Fort Worth is “a beautiful place to live and there is lots to do” across Dallas-Fort Worth. The two large cities “complement each other,” said Berzina. And with Arlington and DFW Airport in between, the area’s attractiveness is very strong, he said.
A city official added affordability to Fort Worth's attractive qualities. "Our diverse, sound and affordable economy, as well as the consistent job growth, appear to be the driving forces of our growth," Director of Planning and Development Randle Harwood wrote in an email.
Arrie Mitchell, director of research for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., agrees that a relatively affordable cost of living attracts newcomers. He also commented that a "thriving central city" and “a lot of room to grow out” offer new residents numerous living options. Fort Worth “is not landlocked like Dallas,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price's comments about the population report were optimistic with a bit of caution. “Fort Worth continues to grow – both in the number of new residents and in the businesses and companies bringing jobs that fuel our robust economy. All of these are good things,” Price said in a statement emailed yesterday to Examiner.com. “But this steady growth also reminds us of the challenges that come with being one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. We need to take those on so that we can continue to maintain a steady and positive growth pattern while protecting the quality of life that makes Fort Worth as a whole so attractive.”
Mitchell echoed Price’s caution, saying there must be “a balance to handle the growth and manage the fiscal and economic challenges.” He said population growth puts “general pressures” on city infrastructure.
Harwood offered a more comprehensive analysis: "All city services are impacted by growth. So if you grow by 14,643 you need more playgrounds, soccer fields, trails, library services, emergency services, trash, water and sewer and more transportation infrastructure."
In an interview Wednesday, incoming City Manager David Cooke said, “Additional residents create challenges and opportunities for Fort Worth. Growth is a positive problem to have.”
Fort Worth is preparing well to address the challenges of rising population, said Cooke, who is scheduled to be on the job June 30. The City Council unanimously approved his appointment on Tuesday.
Cooke said voters’ May 10 approval of seven bond referendums is “positive” and shows residents’ and the city administration’s commitment to invest in infrastructure and services. The bonds will provide funding for improvements to streets, parks and other recreational facilities, libraries, fire safety, municipal court, municipal vehicle and equipment service facility, and the animal care and control facility.
Note: Harwood's comments from a May 27 email were added on May 28.