Texas has a lot - literally - to boast about. There is its abundance of raw materials. The Texas energy industry supplies 21 percent of current US energy needs with oil and natural gas.Skip to next paragraph
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And not to be overlooked is agriculture. Texas, along with Iowa, ranks just behind California in farm earnings. And the state normally is second only to Iowa in total harvested acreage with some 24 million acres.
Yet the balance is shifting in this former frontier state, which until recently had more cattle than people. With its population of 14.7 million growing at an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent rate, more than three times the national average, Texas is adding more people per year than any other state.
Forecasters predict that after growing by 5 million over the past 20 years, the state will add another 5 million to 7 million by the year 2000.
Rapid growth has brought rapid change. To accommodate a population surge driven by about 1,000 newcomers arriving in Texas every day, the state's cities have ballooned.
Suddenly, instead of being a rural culture dependent on what comes from the ground - cotton, grain, beef, crude oil, and natural gas - Texas has urbanized. Just as rapidly as multinational corporations throw up new towers of mirrored glass to fill in the skylines of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Amarillo, new shopping malls, apartment complexes, and condominiums spread in all directions like a two-story tidal wave of brick and concrete.
With urban growth sweeping across its rice and cotton fields, Texas has switched from supplying raw materials for Northern industrial states into becoming a major center for manufacturing, high technology, and service industries. Today Texas is designing and building everything from gigantic offshore drilling rigs to the highly sophisticated computers needed to operate those floating structures.
Not only oil exploration operations but construction projects around the world increasingly draw on Texas for the equipment and engineering skills available here. And Texas banks now are able to finance multibillion-dollar international ventures, which until very recently depended on New York financing.
The change brings new boasts. The Texas 2000 Commission, undertaking a major effort to identify and solve the many problems triggered by rapid growth, reported proudly last year that: ''As of 1980, personal income per capita in Texas was $9,513, which was 100.5 percent of the national average of $9,458. In 1960, Texas' income per capita was only 87 percent of the national average.''
But the latest Texas 2000 report is also realistic. ''Texas' extraordinary momentum in recent years is the product of special circumstances, among them the rapid rise in energy prices, the state's generally warm climate, extensive job opportunities, and a favorable environment for private enterprise,'' it notes.
It goes on to warn that growth has placed severe strains on the state's infrastructure, such as its transportation, waste disposal, and water systems. The report concludes that at a time of sharp federal budget cuts, ''it is up to Texans to solve Texas' water, energy, agricultural, and transportation problems and to build the R&D (research and development) capacity necessary to solve such problems.''
With the current world oil glut and the prospect of plunging oil prices, Texas may find it harder to solve its growth problems. One black shanty town in Houston, sandwiched between the city and the airport, may have to wait another few years for running water. And unskilled Northerners may continue to trickle into Houston's ''Tent City.''
But economic forecasters here count on oil prices recovering over the next two or three years. This recovery, combined with the state's steady development of other sources of income, should mean that Texas won't need to scrape by with less than its present level of a $1 billion budget surplus.