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What is Blanco? The Census Tells Us Something
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 • Posted December 6, 2012

Updated census data for 2010 reveal some interesting and surprising data about the city of Blanco and Blanco County, especially compared to our neighboring cities and counties. Yes, we are growing but not as quickly as our neighbors, and the statistics reflect the different populations living in each city and county.

The City of Blanco. While the county grew rapidly in the 1990s by 24%, from 2000 to 2010, the city only increased from 1505 souls to 1739, about 16%. Actually the growth was less than 16% when you take into account that during the period the city’s boundaries were expanded, particularly in a southerly direction. Blanco’s growth lags compared to Johnson City’s 39% growth from 1191 to 1656, but surprisingly, Dripping Springs’ growth matched that of Blanco, from 1548 to 1788. Wimberley’s population is reported as 2626; curiously, its 2000 population was reported as 3797. Most likely the 2000 figure included adjoining Woodcreek, which in 2000 had 1274 residents and in 2010, 1457. Together the two towns, actually one residential area, total 4083 residents, indicating a growth rate of about 7.5%, which makes sense.

The growth of the surrounding towns is explainable. Johnson City benefits from two large employers, PEC and Blanco County. Blanco does not have any employers nearly as large as either of those two entities, but in the aggregate, thanks to Real Ale Brewing, Cox Paving, D&H Equipment, Dirt Works, Klepac Nurseries, and Blanco Heating and Cooling, we do have a good number of local companies employing many residents. Wimberley/Woodcreek is larger for two major reasons: its proximity to Austin and San Marcos, resulting in a major segment of residents commuting to those cities and its attraction of retirees who live within the city limits….one wag opined that of the over 8000 people probably in the area, 6000 originally came from Houston! And as to Dripping Springs, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed when you drive through the town, it has become a commercial hub of Austin, but many of its residential areas are outside the city limits; several miles east of the center of Dripping Springs, large subdivisions have sprung up in the past five years.

Sheer population figures don’t tell the whole story though. Look at the following comparisons: (See table 1).

The median age for all cities has increased from 2000. All the cities show an estimated split of owned homes to rented homes of about 2 to 1, except Wood Creek, a residential community (5:1) and Wimberley (3:1). Poverty rates vary widely from 7% in Boerne to 36.8% in San Marcos. The statistics above show that Blanco is a young city, one that is more agricultural than the other comparisons. That too is explainable, since Fredericksburg has a university campus and is a regional medical and commercial center, both of which largely employ college graduates. Wimberley is a stone’s throw from San Marcos, which boasts a large faculty at Texas State; some faculty members must live in Wimberley and many Wimberley residents commute to Austin. Those factors, as well as the presence of wealthy retirees, also explain the age disparity between those two cities, on the one hand, and Blanco and Johnson City on the other. How greatly the dollar value numbers are affected by those over 65 is something that cannot be gleaned from the raw numbers, but the income levels of doctors, nurses, academicians and retirees must inflate incomes in Fredericksburg and Wimberley.

Housing values follow income levels, so the lower home values for Blanco and Johnson City reflect the lower incomes there than in Wimberley and Fredericksburg. The small difference in home values between Blanco and Johnson City will surely disappear as and if the city gradually annexes the remainder of Cielo Springs and beyond.

One other interesting statistic is that per capita income is $16,696 in Blanco and more than $25,000 in San Marcos and Fredericksburg, again reflecting the composition of each city’s population. Assuming employees work and get paid for 2000 hours per year, the average hourly pay rate in Blanco is only $8.35. With the minimum wage now at $7.25, a very large number of jobs in Blanco must be at the minimum. And given that average family incomes are about double the per capita income, almost all adults must be working rather than one person in a relationship staying at home.

Blanco County. Census data by county also reveal some surprising results. Here the interesting comparisons are between Hays and Kendall counties, on the one hand, and Blanco and Gillespie counties, on the other. Hays, of course, is booming because of Texas State (with its 30,000 approximate student population) and its medical facilities and Interstate 35 access, as well as its proximity to Austin. Kendall County (and Boerne) enjoys a proximity to San Antonio. Comparatively, here’s the growth curve: (See table 2).

Gillespie’s growth, or rather modest growth, is a bit of a surprise given the growth of the wine and tourist industry in that area, but like Blanco County it has only a few large employers.

County statistics are similarly interesting: (See table 3).

The median age in Hays County must reflect the student and graduate student population of Texas State, and thus the lower family income. But there are differences. The average home value in Blanco County is much higher outside the cities of Blanco and Johnson City than inside; that seems true in all the counties. The value of homes in Kendall County, quite above the national average of $185,400, is surprising. And while the average age between residents of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County generally is not significant, the average age difference in the City of Blanco and Blanco County, about 11 years, is a surprise. In general, one may surmise that the people moving into Blanco County, as well as the other counties, are opting not to live within the cities but rather choose to live in the country. In general, these non-city folk are quite a bit older, better educated, and earn about a third more (in large part due to their age and education).

What do all these statistics mean? The City of Blanco is not rich but it is young and hard working. Hays County, Austin and San Antonio are all coming our way but so far the impact has not been earth-shattering. Twenty years from now that may be different; the 2030 census should be interesting.

For those wanting to keep Blanco (whether it be the city or the county) the way it is and has been, the good news is that that is where we are. The French have a saying: “The more change there is, the more things stay the same.” For those wanting Blanco to grow and prosper, the clear message is that the city and the county need a strong new employer or two that will not only increase the population but also raise the average income of our city residents, particularly Blanco. That’s a tough order, but a priority if that is what is desired.

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