New Braunfels still made headway in several key economic areas in 2020, considering the challenges the city faced in a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Meek, Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce president, presented his annual review of economic benchmarks last month to New Braunfels City Council members that indicated increased property values, tax revenues and median household income.
Here’s a look at the 2020 Benchmark Study of economic indicators:
• Population estimates: The city’s population has grown nearly 50% since 2010, averaging about 6% per year, compared to the state’s population increase of 16% during that same time period. The Census Bureau estimates the city’s 2019 population at 90,209.
• Per capita commercial investment: This custom benchmark was created to indicate how the local economy was attracting commercial investment. The 2020 per capita commercial investment average was $1,925 per resident. The average since 2010 has been $1,809. Last year, that indicator was $731 per resident.
“We take the amount of new commercial investment from primary employers and divide that by the current population,” Meek said. “2020 was a very good year, despite a pandemic.”
• Real property valuation: Real property values have grown $5.4 billion, about 132%, since 2010. Values grew 13% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
“We have averaged nearly $491 million in new property value per year to the tax rolls over the last 11 years,” he said.
• Median household income: This indicator increased by 26.3% from 2019. Since 2010, the city’s median house income has grown from $52,296 to $81,131. “This is higher than the state and metro-area average by a lot,” Meek said. “We do economic development to raise the quality of life for residents, so this is a very gratifying (figure) and result.”
• Unemployment rate comparison: New Braunfels continues to enjoy a lower unemployment rate than the nation and state, the study shows. The pandemic created a return to 2011 levels of unemployment with an average rate of 6.5% in 2020. Meek said the city continued to grow jobs despite the pandemic.
“Employment has grown as well, with 12,942 jobs since 2010, over 47% growth during that time,” Meek said.
• City property tax statistics: Revenues are up 138% since 2010 and 10% from 2019 to nearly $9.4 billion.
• Number of new business meters: This indicator, measured by the city-owned utility for electricity, water and wastewater, equaled the 11-year average with 155 new meters added in 2020 and have added 1,724 new business meters since 2010.
• Sales tax revenue receipts: This indicator is up 88% since 2010, or 233% since 2003. The figure topped $25 million in 2020. The indicator is up about 4% in 2020 from the previous year.
“Sales tax revenue is the largest revenue source for city government services locally,” Meek said.
• Commercial industrial tax value: This indicator increased to $2.9 billion, about 10.9% from 2019 and 156% in the last 10 years. “It’s hard for city and counties and school districts to pay for services solely from residential property taxes,” Meek said. “The growth here is very critical.”
• Building permit values: More than 1,000 single-family home permits were issued in 2020 for the eighth straight year, and since 2010, 15,202 new homes have been constructed.
• Available office space: More than 218,000 square feet of office space was available in 2020, according to the survey. Meek said more than 60 properties were surveyed for the total office space indicator, which topped 1.2 million square feet, an increase of 194% over the last 16 years, about 12% growth annually. Total office space topped 1 million square feet for the third year in a row.
“We added during the pandemic year of 2020, 164,464 square feet of new space,” he said.
• New primary jobs: The city added 692 primary employer jobs in 2020. The average is 951 over 18 years. Overall, the city’s net primary job total was 11,770. Total employment in the city is 40,518, a slight increase from the 2019 total of 40,482. “This year was remarkable considering the pandemic’s effects,” Meek said.
This custom benchmark has been set locally since 2003, with input from 61 primary employers. Meek said 19 of those primary employers added jobs in 2020, and 10 of those experienced job losses. Total primary job losses were 494. Primary employers are those producing a good or service here, with a majority of that good or service sold outside the trade area.
“Early in the pandemic, the city and the county experienced thousands of job losses, but those losses were mainly secondary jobs in the hospitality and travel trade sector,” he said.
Many New Braunfels businesses received Paycheck Protection Program loans.
• Average home values: This indicator saw a $9,629 increase in 2020, about 3.8%, compared to the previous year.
The survey also stated that the New Braunfels economy was lifted in part by the stimulus provided by the federal government during the pandemic.
“While the local hospitality industry is still greatly impacted, New Braunfels’ abundance of diverse industries buoyed large portions of the local economy when it was needed the most,” Chamber officials said.