The past year was a great year of economic development in New Braunfels, according to the 2018 Benchmark Study presented to the New Braunfels City Council Monday night.
During the regularly scheduled council meeting, Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michael Meek presented the annual economic benchmark update.
The 2018 report showed a great year for New Braunfels in terms of economic development, with increases in median household income, office space and new jobs and decreases in unemployment and lost primary jobs since 2017.
This past year has been very positive for New Braunfels economic development, Meek said.
“This really is an outstanding report card. If the local economy was a report card it would be an A-plus,” Meek said. “Especially as a comparison to last year, and just the jobs market alone for primary employers.”
This past year, more than half of New Braunfels primary employers added jobs, Meek said.
“That wasn’t the case last year,” Meek said.
Only nine of the 57 primary job employers reported losing employees this year, compared to last year when 20 primary job employers of the 53 reported having lost employees, Meek said during Monday night’s presentation.
This year’s lost primary jobs were only nine out of 57 compared to last year’s 20 out of 53, Meek said during Monday’s presentation.
“We had a lot fewer primary employers that lost employment this year, so we saw a real pendulum swing,” he said.
As for new primary employment in 2018, New Braunfels added 1,147 new jobs, Meek said.
“You can see that the previous three years (2015-17) that we were below the 16-year average of 938 new jobs a year,” Meek said. “This year we got back to levels we have not seen since 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 where we saw 1,147 jobs either announced or added by employers.”
New Braunfels also saw an increase in median household income in 2018 from 2017, Meek said, adding that this year’s number is $61,618. The New Braunfels household income grew about 3.2 percent over the last year, he said.
“Median household income, how are we doing with the economy here, with disposable incomes and that sort of thing?” Meek said. “You can see that we have exceeded the San Antonio metropolitan area and the state of Texas many years since this data has started to be collected, and we’ve seen an 87 percent increase in median household income since 2001.”
Another custom data point that shows economic growth is the record amount of office space New Braunfels recorded this year, Meek said.
“This is the year that we exceeded a million square feet in total properties for the first time,” Meek said. “That’s an additional 526,000 to 620,000 square feet leased since 2007. We’ve seen an almost 54 percent expansion in six years. This was a major goal for your NBEDC years back, and you can see that they’ve made a lot of headway on this goal.”
The unemployment rate in New Braunfels was below average in 2018, which is a positive sign, Meek said.
“The 16-year average here is below 5 percent, which is considered full employment by economists. But we’ve been at 4.175 percent average for 16 years,” Meek said. “In 2018 we were 23.4 percent below that 16-year average at 3.2 percent unemployment.”
New Braunfels’ population growth is what is driving many of its economic growth factors, such as an increase in single-family home permits, Meek told council members.
“You see that New Braunfels has experienced three times the rate of growth as the state of Texas since 2003, and Texas leads the nation in many population increase data points,” Meek said.
The annual economic benchmark report started in 2002 as a 4B Board initiative, Meek said. The report features many custom data points collected by Marketing and Research Director for the New Braunfels Economic Development Commission Holly Covington, he said.
“(City leadership) thought it would be a good idea … if we started measuring certain things (collectively), instead of just looking at data one year at a time out of context,” Meek said. “The custom data is collected out of our office here. Holly spends a lot of time contacting these various entities to get this data.”
Data collection for the year started in October and concluded Monday, Meek said.
“So anything major that happens in the next two weeks here, we can either do an addendum or we can just roll it over into next years numbers.”