Fresh government statistics reveal that two west Texas cities, Odessa and Midland, are leading the nation in income growth. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found between 2008 and 2012, while many cities saw significant decreases in personal income–Odessa and Midland led the nation with increases of 10.2 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.
According to the data, traditional leading markets like Los Angeles see roughly 10 percent of the population often unable to find a job. Odessa and Midland have the opposite problem.
“We have issues filling our jobs,” Sara Higgins, a spokeswoman with the City of Midland, told Breitbart Texas.
Higgins mentioned that although the city saw a huge population growth rate of 4.6 percent between 2011 and 2012, help wanted ads continue to outpace new residents.
Higgins said, “The low unemployment has made it hard to find workers in the service sector. To remain competitive, the starting wages are incredibly high for retail and restaurants here, but we see more people going into oil because it’s more lucrative. Some restaurants have had to reduce hours because they cannot hire enough staff to keep it open full time.”
She laughed, “It’s kind of become an urban legend, but a few years ago Subway, the sandwich shop, was offering a $1,000 bonus for signing on as an employee.”
“It’s ultimately oil and gas that is driving the income growth,” Higgins continued. “In the past, the price of oil has driven whether or not we’re in a boom or a bust. People will tell you this boom will last longer is because this boom is technology driven…What we’re trying to do here in Midland is diversify, but oil and gas has been the backbone of our economy for decades.”
Indeed, the city is diversifying as new business creators and job seekers flock to the city from around the U.S.
Midland is expected to enter to commercial space industry in September when it receives a space port license. XCOR, a private rocket engine and spaceflight development company, announced its new headquarters will be built in Midland.
XCOR is a close competitor of SpaceX, another aerospace company that will soon have a significant presence in Texas.
“XCOR was offered an incentive to come here by the Midland Development Corporation,” Higgins said.
The Midland Development Corporation (MDC) gives incentives for new and existing employers in the city.
“Midland voters made these incentives possible when they approved a quarter-cent increase in the local sales tax rate, with additional revenues earmarked to promote economic development and diversification,” the MDC website states.
Among the MDC’s goals are creating new jobs in the area, helping existing employers expand business, and helping Midland citizens secure good-paying, long term jobs.
Higgins mentioned that as the economy expands and jobs are created, the new population surge continues to bolster the local housing market.
“Housing is the biggest challenge that we face in Midland right now,” she said. “Value Place Hotels, where you can stay for a week, is currently charging $599 per week. Housing prices have skyrocketed, and the cost of living for apartments has as well. A few months ago, we had 11 apartment complexes trying to get built; in fact, we hit $800 million in building permits last year…It wasn’t until we had a very solid increase in population that the housing market decided it was time to catch up.”
Higgins mentioned that Odessa, a mere 20 minute drive away, is “developing the same growth and the same problems” as Midland is.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate