Houston's Future

Forbes boldly includes Houston on list of America's next boomtowns, but questions linger

Forbes boldly includes Houston on list of America's next boomtowns

Houston skyline downtown at night
Houston's future remains bright, although the oil collapse could cast a long shadow, Forbes says. IdeasLaboratory.com

Texas remains the land of opportunity, according to Forbes, which has named four cities in the top 10 of its predictions of America's next boomtowns.

Forbes analyzed the 53 largest metro areas in the country to determine which have the best chance of prospering in the next decade. The numbers illustrate two different kinds of cities: Technology hubs with higher incomes and an influx of educated young people and what Forbes calls "opportunity cities," which have more industry options, more families, and lower costs.

Austin, ranked No. 1, belongs to the former group. Surges in population, job growth, and education levels contribute to our boomtown status. Notes Forbes, Austin experienced a 13.2 percent population increase from 2010 to 2014, and 43 percent of the current population ages 25 to 44 have at least a bachelor's degree. Additionally, the local job count has grown by 19.1 percent in the past five years.

Texas' three largest metro areas: Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio are also among the top 10 boomtowns. "The most vital parts of urban America can be encapsulated largely in one five-letter word: Texas," says Forbes.

These Texas cities have seen double-digit job growth as well as hikes in income growth, domestic in-migration, and young families. But Houston (No. 6), with its strong ties to the oil and gas industry, will need to take stock of its other assets, cautions Forbes.

Most economists do not see a total meltdown as occurred in the 1980s, but it would not be a surprise to see Houston fall out of our top 10 until energy prices recover. Economist Patrick Jankowski projects some 9,000 layoffs in the energy sector locally in 2016 but enough growth elsewhere — for example 9,000 new jobs in medical services — to keep employment expanding, although far below the pace of the last few years. The other, less energy-dependent Texas metro areas seem likely to continue their stellar performance.

However, Dallas-Fort Worth (No. 7) and San Antonio (No. 8) are on track to "continue their stellar performance."