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New arrivals force city to stretch out

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  • slim jim

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    Mar 18, 2008
    Web-posted Friday, March 28, 2008
    New arrivals force city to stretch out

    Amarillo growth steady

    By Chris Ramirez

    Henry Bargas / Amarillo Globe-News
    Once a lonely crossroad on the way to Boys Ranch, the area near Gem Lake Road and Amarillo Boulevard in northwest Amarillo has seen tremendous growth. Commercial growth, supported by residential growth in the area, includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Lowe's home improvement center on the left and a United Supermarket on the upper right.

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    Amarillo certainly isn't growing as quickly as Austin, San Antonio, Houston or the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
    By the Numbers: Amarillo
    Population figures for Amarillo and surrounding areas.
    Community 2006 - 2000 - 1990
    Amarillo 185,525 - 173,627 - 157,615
    Canyon 13,572 - 12,875 - 11,365
    Happy 618 - 647 - 588
    Lake Tanglewood 869 - 825 - 637
    Timbercreek Canyon 480 - 406 - 277
    Palisades 373 - 352 - N/A
    Bishop Hills 214 - 210 - N/A
    Population figures.
    County 2006 - 2000 - 1990
    Randall 111,472 - 104,312 - 89,673
    Potter 121,328 - 113,546 - 97,874

    But make no mistake about it: more people now call the Texas Panhandle home than ever.
    The 26-county region's population in 2006 topped 430,000 residents, up from 402,862 in 2000, according the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the same organization that on Wednesday listed Texas' four largest cities among the 10 fast-growing communities in the nation.
    Nearly 30,000 more people lived in Amarillo last year than in 1990, when the city's population was 157,615.
    Buzz David, president and chief executive officer of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, is encouraged by the city's growth.
    Mid-size communities like Amarillo have become a more attractive alternative for businesses and corporations because they offer affordable land and a burgeoning workforce, David said. And that can be a welcomed change for some families and young professionals who deal with traffic, long commutes and other quality of life trappings in major metropolitan cities.
    "Years ago, if a company opened in a community, people flocked to the area for all the jobs," David said. "Nowadays people move to places and the jobs would follow. We're seeing that as a possibility here in Amarillo."
    Growth also has its costs.
    City officials have warned it has become tougher and costlier for Amarillo to extend its water and sewer lines to some newer developments, particularly those further from the city limits.
    Last summer, they proposed a 10-percent water rate increase to help recoup some costs and maintain Amarillo's water system as its needs arise.
    "It's good to have steady growth ... rather than an explosion of growth," said Kelley Shaw, Amarillo's planning director. "But even with the type of manageable growth that we have ... it's still an issue to deal with."
    The story is different elsewhere in the Panhandle.
    While many communities have experienced modest growth the past five to 10 years, population in some towns have stagnated.
    Some have even declined.
    People packed up and left Pampa about 20 years ago when its oil industry began to show signs of cracking.
    The city's lone shopping mall was one of the first casualties. It closed in 1989 and has lapsed into major disrepair.
    Officials now believe the community is experiencing a population surge, as oil producers have seen an upswing in business, particularly in the past year.
    Rental properties in Pampa are becoming more scarce. So, too, are homes for sale.
    Only about a fourth of the houses that were on the market two years ago remain unsold.
    "We're trying to recover," said Keith Pitner, executive director for the local chamber of commerce. "When the oil industry collapsed ... it devastated us.
    "But now we're seeing that people are coming back. And that's good news for us."

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