A lot can change in a decade. Future growth projections of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and surrounding counties from the 2000 census data compared to projections based on the 2010 census data are vastly different. It’s no secret that the area is growing, including Parker County; but how much is the county projected to grow currently and why?
Based on the 2000 census from 2000 to 2030, the North Central Texas Council of Governments projected Parker County to grow by 284 percent, from 85,600 people to 328,400. Fast forward 10 years to the 2010 census data, from 2010 to 2035, Parker County is currently projected to grow by 66 percent, from 116,927 people to 193,700. Honing in on Weatherford, the projected growth is 50 percent, from 25,250 people to 37,865.
Growth projections are based on an equation formulated by NCTCOG, Weatherford Economic Development Director Dennis Clayton said. The organization factors in housing starts, business starts and school populations, Clayton added.
“The mathematical formula takes into consideration several factual demographics that [NCTCOG] does its forecasts and estimates with,” he said.
The reasons for the population growth decline vary, however, Clayton noted that 2000 to 2009 were very robust years for the Metroplex, including Parker County and Weatherford. From 2000 to 2010, growth was forecasted at about 4.5 percent per year for the area, with some north Dallas and north Fort Worth cities actually growing at this rate. The actual growth from 2000 to 2010 ended up being about 3.5 percent per year for the area. The actual rate was still strong, Clayton added, but the great recession of 2008 played a part in slowing the growth. The current forecasts are based on about 3.5 percent growth rate per year for the area, which is still very strong, Clayton said.
While Weatherford, the largest city in Parker County, is growing, NCTCOG predicts the rest of the county population will continue to outnumber the city.
“In the next several years, the Walsh Ranch in east Parker County, as that growth occurs – two thirds of that development is in Parker County – that will cause more growth in the county than in the city,” Clayton noted.
The Walsh Ranch is approximately a 7,200 acre plot of land east of Weatherford located both in Tarrant and Parker Counties that will be used for mixed use development, largely residential. Also to the east, nearing Fort Worth, are Hudson Oaks, Willow Park, Aledo and the Annettas.
However, east Parker County growth is projected to continue along the same lines as it always has, mostly in housing, Clayton continued.
Like many of the counties that surround the Metroplex, Parker County is built on bedroom communities, Weatherford included, Clayton said. But unlike the eastern bedroom communities, Weatherford’s distance from the heart of the Metroplex, Dallas and Tarrant Counties, has allowed it to become a suburban business hub.
“Weatherford is the major business center [of the county], whether it’s retail, commercial office, health care or industrial manufacturing,” he said. “The rest of the county has grown primarily in residential and small commercial business services. The Walsh Ranch will have a component of retail and light industry, but it will still be primarily residential growth.
“Retailers and even light industry look at distances between the Fort Worth shop locations. Walsh Ranch will be a little close to Fort Worth for some new outlets. Weatherford is far enough away and has the population density to justify another retail outlet that’s [already] in Fort Worth.”
Clayton noted that the distance of Weatherford from Fort Worth will cause Weatherford to continue to be a strong business center. Based on sales tax “capture and leakage” over the past few years, the city has become known as a regional shopping destination, Clayton added. But that doesn’t mean it won’t maintain its bedroom community/rural feel.
“Weatherford is the best balanced economy in Parker County – being balanced with residential growth, retail growth, professional business services and industry warehousing,” Clayton said. “We have been the largest center of those business developments for the last 10 to 20 years because of our crossroads with the interstate and our proximity to other communities. I think we will continue to lead in that sector ... [and] we will continue to have residential development – that’s critical for new business.”
Another benefit to Weatherford and Parker County Clayton mentioned is an inherent property of bedroom communities: residents commute to the city for work. As Weatherford’s business and industry continue to expand, the workforce currently traveling to the Dallas/Fort Worth area – in often less than favorable traffic – will divert to Parker County’s business hub for jobs, he said.
“We all love our jobs, but we don’t like the commute into traffic congestion,” he added. “That makes us a good growth area because people can have a choice of a new job that has less or no commute.”
Ultimately, the county and Weatherford are projected to maintain their current roles in the future of the Metroplex as strong bedroom communities, just on a larger scale, Clayton said.
“Parker County, and even Johnson County are the last frontiers of the DFW Metroplex that have [a wide range] of school [district sizes], reasonable [commuting] distances and shopping options,” he said. “We are that last sector of the Metroplex that still has room to grow and still be a bedroom community to the Metroplex.”