National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Midland, Texas – and west Texas in general - are sometimes subject to jokes about dust storms, tarantulas, tumbleweeds, et cetera.

Turns out the joke is on us.

A new Census Bureau report  shows Midland, Texas, was the fastest-growing metro area over the July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, period, with its population increasing 4.6%.

Adjacent Odessa, Texas, ranked fifth overall, Austin-Round Rock, Texas, was seventh.

A relative of mine works for an oil company in Midland and said it is no easy sell to get new college grads to make their home in west Texas. As it turns out, the oil and gas boom is convincing enough.

The Census Bureau said many towns in the Great Plains and the Southwest U.S. are no longer losing residents, but rather having new reasons to fire up the “welcome wagon.” Even Manhattan, Kan., home of my alma mater Kansas State University, is one of the fastest growing communities in the country in the last year.

Time for supermarkets and other retailers to redraw their future plans for expansion. Midland residents, starved for attention, should be pleased.


From the report:


“After a long period of out-migration, some parts of the Great Plains ─ from just south of the Canadian border all the way down to West Texas ─ are experiencing rapid population growth," said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser performing the duties of director. "There are probably many factors fueling this growth on the prairie, but no doubt the energy boom is playing a role. For instance, the Permian Basin, located primarily in West Texas, and North Dakota accounted for almost half of the total U.S. growth in firms that mine or extract oil and gas, during a recent one-year period."


More highlights from the report:

• Overall, 40 of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas between 2011 and 2012 were completely in the South or West, eight were completely in the Midwest, and one was in the Northeast. One area (Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo.) straddles the South and Midwest.

• The second fastest-growing metro area was Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky.

• Between 2011 and 2012, the population of the Los Angeles metro area surpassed the 13 million mark, Philadelphia passed the 6 million mark, Las Vegas surpassed the 2 million mark, and Grand Rapids, Mich., passed the 1 million mark.

• New York continued to be the most populous metro area, with 19.8 million residents on July 1, 2012, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. All in all, nine metro areas had populations of 5 million people or more, while 52 had at least 1 million.

Micro Areas

• Half of the 50 fastest-growing micro areas between 2011 and 2012 were in the South, 14 in the West, 10 in the Midwest and one in the Northeast.

• The most populous micro area was Claremont-Lebanon, N.H.-Vt., with a 2012 population of 217,000. Hilo, Hawaii, was second.


• Chattahoochee, Ga., home to Fort Benning, was the nation's fastest-growing county of 10,000 or more residents as its population climbed 10.1 percent, between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012.

• Los Angeles was the nation's most populous county on July 1, 2012, with nearly 10 million residents, followed by Cook, Ill. (Chicago); Harris, Texas (Houston); Maricopa, Ariz. (Phoenix); and San Diego, Calif.

• Texas had 11 counties among the 50 fastest-growing, as well as 11 among the 50 highest numeric gainers.

• The county with the fastest decline in population was Bradford, Fla., at 5 percent. Another Florida county (Hendry) was second, followed by a pair of counties in Alabama (Macon and Perry).