Positive Economic Outlook for B/CS, Says Researcher

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The Bryan/College Station area showed positive signs of growth in 2012, according to a report from A&M Real Estate Center researcher Jim Gaines, but there's still some areas that could use improving.

At Wednesday's Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Forum, Gaines revealed an estimated loss of between 400-500 jobs this past year, but Gaines believes there's hope on that front soon.

"The growth in the healthcare and medical facilities, the hospitals and so forth, are creating a lot of jobs, and are expected to actually increase that number of job formations over the next two or three years," Gaines said.

Home sales in B/CS were up 17 percent for 2012 compared to 2011. The median home price went up 2.5 percent.

Single family building permits went up 30 percent in 2012, and multi family permits rose 17 percent. They rose 191 percent from 2010 to 2011. That's a lot of growth, even for tens of thousands of college students.

"Will we overbuild a little bit? Generally we do," Gaines said. "The economy doesn't work that smoothly, so there will be a little bit of that, but right now, my understanding is the units being built are being leased."

Also part of the forum were local government representatives discussing the past year.

Most people think of bars when it comes to Northgate, but College Station considers the stretch of University Drive from Texas Avenue to Wellborn as the Northgate stretch. Bob Cowell with the city's planning and development team says Northgate work -- from pedestrian improvements to the Plaza implosion to make way for new development -- was achievement number one in 2012.

"That definitely characterizes not only are we still strong economically, we're actually moving more aggressively forward into the future," he said.

Cowell added that 3,000 additional residents and 60,000 square feet of space is set to go into Northgate over the next two to three years with things like The Stack residential building.

Priority One in 2013 for College Station? Cowell says it's the new medical district encompassing the College Station Medical Center and the new Scott & White Hospital. Plus, the area is set for other new medical facilities, along with residential and commercial space. In all, the city is hopeful there's $500 million to $1 billion in investment over the next two decades.

"That's real money going into the school district, going into the county, coming to the city, thousands of jobs that are tied to one of the strongest growth sectors in health care," Cowell said.

Downtown Bryan continues to be a visible sign of growth for that city. Since 2002, $25 million in infrastructure investment has helped make for a $98 million market value increase. Nineteen new businesses have come to downtown since 2010.

But ask Deputy City Manager Joey Dunn what the biggest thing was for Bryan in 2012 and going forward into 2013, and it's the joint venture to build a biocorridor.

"A lot of this investment, though, is beyond 2013," Dunn said. "We're talking three-to-five years when you look at all the types of businesses that are going to want to locate on 47 or Villa Maria or Highway 60. It's still a building year for us."