The 2017 Lubbock Economic Forecast Luncheon on Tuesday indicated a prosperous year and a hopeful future for the Hub City.
During a presentation, John Osborne, president and CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and Market Lubbock Inc., shared notable statistics for the local economy in the past year.
One of the best economic indicators, Osborne said, is the city’s gross domestic product, or the total value of everything produced in the area for the year. Lubbock’s GDP has increased nearly 19 percent since 2012, Osborne said, putting the local economy in a stable place.
Osborne highlighted several industries that have contributed to that economic growth. He said cotton production in the region was strong in 2016, with an increase of 72 percent since 2013. The oil industry is also rebounding in the area, he said, with a significant amount of new oil rigs in the Panhandle region.
Other industries have grown as well, Osborne said, creating over 16,000 jobs in the last decade. Most surveyed industries in the city are adding jobs, especially retail and hospitality and leisure businesses.
Osborne said jobs and the labor force have grown at the same rate, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. “We need companies making jobs because we need people living and working here,” Osborne said.
With more jobs comes more people moving to Lubbock, he said. Population growth in other Texas cities is often focused on more than in Lubbock, but Osborne said the city’s population has increased at nearly the same rate as the state’s population growth for the past seven years. Lubbock recently hit a population of over 250,000 and is projected to have 275,000 citizens by 2022.
Construction continues to boom in the city, with no sign of slowing down, Osborne said. Eight hotels are under construction, with the possibility for seven more to break ground within 18 months. The amount of new residential permits continues to climb, but non-residential permits have flatlined. Osborne said that is for a good reason.
“This isn’t an area of concern of mine because we need more space for business to grow. We are at an incredibly low vacancy rate for industrial product, office product and retail product,” Osborne said. “All of these new buildings that you see going up have companies going in them. They have businesses opening and operating. There is very little space for our sales teams to be selling.”
Thanks to impressive statistics like these, Osborne said Lubbock has been ranked in various “best city” lists for business and travel by multiple outlets, including Forbes and WalletHub.
“This is a great place to start your business, to grow your business; it’s a great place to live,” Osborne said. “That’s what people know about us.”
A certain development effort will heighten Lubbock’s already impressive statistics, Osborne said. Downtown redevelopment projects were a key part of the year-in-review presentation.
Keynote speaker Donovan Rypkema, principal with PlaceEconomics who specializes in downtown development knowledge, shared 101 variables in 13 categories that he said a city must consider when redeveloping what he called a “center city area” to make it a success.
Rypkema was complimentary of the developments throughout town that he had the chance to visit, from downtown and South Overton to South and West Lubbock. But the development in these areas needs to be different, Rypkema said.
He said the kind of shopping center that pops up in other areas of town are more predictable, with similar shops appealing to a certain kind of customer the center is trying to attract.
“You want the opposite in downtown. You want a sense of discovery,” Rypkema said. “You want people to say, ‘Geez, I found a really great café this morning that nobody else ever found.’ Even though 5,000 people ate there last week, it doesn’t matter. They have an individual sense of discovering something downtown.”
After Rypkema’s presentation, Delbert McDougal, downtown revitalization master developer, said downtown Lubbock has already successfully met some of Rypkema’s standards for a prosperous center city. He said this shows the project is headed in the right direction.
“I think it’s coming along very well,” McDougal said of the redevelopment. “It’s still in the slow process, because of the underground utilities, but we’re making new sales and really starting to make progress. I think we’re beyond the point of no return.”
The communal efforts and strong economy of Lubbock will help the city continue to flourish for years to come, Osborne said.
“All of those things continue to make Lubbock a great place not just today, but for our future,” he said. “It’s that reason why I believe, as a community, Lubbock is on the direct track.”