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Waco tops job growth study

Nov. 5, 2010

By Carmen Galvan
Staff Writer

Waco outpaced both the Texas job growth percentage and the national job growth percentage by gaining 2.9 percent in the last year, which translates into about 3,100 jobs.

From September 2009 to September 2010, the average Texas job growth percentage was 1.6 percent and the national average was 0.4 percent, according to recent data released from the Texas Workforce Commission.

"Based on the data collected, Waco led the state in percentage of job growth," said James Vaughan, president and CEO of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. "We've had companies that are hiring and we have a good balanced economy. We're not dominated by any particular sector so we have a strong balanced economy, and that's a good thing for Waco."

Both Vaughan and Kris Collins, director of business retention and expansion for the chamber, credit the job growth to increased business in areas such as engineering in the aerospace industry and an increase in professional services such as private contractors and consultants.

"We are seeing more business picking up in the aerospace industry and in manufacturing," Collins said." Even professional services and things like health care continue to be strong industries."

Vaughan said he believes these types of jobs will attract recent college graduates.

"Those are the kinds of jobs that would enable us to attract graduates of Baylor to stay in Waco, and we would like to have more jobs like that, that would hire college graduates from Baylor and from other universities," Vaughan said. "I would say one of our three primary goals is to be a magnet for talent, and that's across the board. College graduates, young professionals, law school graduates - it's the talent that enables business to be successful and we can be a magnet that makes the city more attractive."

Vaughan mentioned the importance of expanding job opportunities, and Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Department of Business Retention and Expansion plays a large role in stimulating such growth within the city, Collins said.

"We work with them on projects so that when they have the opportunity to expand or retain local business in the community they are supported," Collins said. "We make sure they're aware that we're here as a resource and as an asset to them, and that they understand when opportunities arise they are available to both old and new businesses and also that the community as a whole is supportive of the business community."

With businesses focusing efforts on retaining their presence in Waco and with new businesses continuously expanding, Collins said new jobs are expected to arise in the future.

"People are pretty excited at the way things are going. You can say they are cautiously optimistic," Collins said. "We are currently working on several new projects, and current companies are looking into investing in their facilities with new technology and efficiency upgrades, and hopefully with those will be jobs as well."

This information comes as an encouraging sign to citizens of Waco, who have seen an average monthly unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, which is still lower than both the state and national rates of unemployment.

"We were very encouraged. You always like to get a good rating, but the rate most people talk about is unemployment," Vaughan said. "That's the number everybody knows, but that's just part of it. Unemployment has to do with how many workers there are in the area against how many are working. If the number of people in the work area goes up and the number in the work force stays the same, then the unemployment rate goes up, but in this case the work force number went up, which is good news."

Although Vaughan remains optimistic, he is not sure if Waco will hold the lead in job growth for long due to its balanced economic state.

"Historically we have not been the fastest-growing region in the state, so I think with the fact that we have a very balanced economy there may be times that we will lead the state, but in the meantime we'll continue to experience good growth and I think we'll do well," Vaughan said.