"Whether you are looking at our low tax-rate environment, hard-working West Texas labor force, or the quality of life available to our citizens who live and work in the Amarillo area, we have it all."
Granted, you might be inclined to take those words with a grain of salt, seeing as they come from Andrew Freeman, who happens to be Economic Development Manager for the City of Amarillo. But dig a little deeper, and you'll quickly realize he's got the economic goods to back them up.
The Greater Amarillo area is often referred to as the Panhandle, but, economically speaking, it is closely connected to the South Plains (which includes Lubbock) and the Permian Basin (which includes Midland and Odessa). "These connections help make Amarillo a unique engine of economic activity with high growth potential," says Bradley T. Ewing, Ph.D., the C.T. McLaughlin Chair of Free Enterprise - Energy Commerce at Texas Tech University's Rawls College of Business.
Greater Amarillo stacks up well against other parts of the country and probably surpasses most midsized cities in terms of economic performance, Ewing says. He estimates the area produces more than $26 billion of economic activity annually, and that figure is growing rapidly and consistently.
Many sectors experiencing growth
Employment growth in construction and in oil and natural gas is running about 7 percent a year, and professional and business services are expanding at a 3 percent clip. While manufacturing is on the wane in other parts of the country, it continues to grow at about a 2 percent annual rate in the Panhandle.
Growth begets growth, a fact borne out in the Amarillo EDC 2017 Business Relocation Study. When business owners were asked what the most important factors would be if they were considering relocation, opportunity for growth topped the list.
Other important relocation-decision factors mentioned in the survey included state and local taxes, cost of commercial real estate, and a vibrant business community. Freeman makes the case that Amarillo shines in those areas, as well.
Favorable tax and utility costs
"We have one of the lowest city tax rates anywhere in Texas (0.35%), combined with no state corporate or individual income taxes," he says. And at 4.0 cents per KWH for industrial users, Amarillo's utility costs are lower than all of its benchmark cities and well below the Texas (5.3 cents) and U.S. (6.6 cents) averages. "I think it will be hard for other communities to beat our tax structure and the cost of utilities in this area."
Real estate prices and availability are subject to fluctuation in any market, but Ewing says Greater Amarillo is "very attractive in terms of commercial real estate." Businesses of all types and sizes have no trouble finding properties that match their needs and price range, Freeman says. "There are many new and existing buildings available, as well as plenty of vacant land for businesses that want to build their own."
Freeman rates Amarillo a solid "A" when it comes to having a vibrant business community, and Ewing characterizes it as "excellent," especially because of the multiple business synergies that exist in the area. There is a deep well of regional and local bank support for companies to continue growing and reinvesting in their businesses, and Amarillo is the regional hub for a variety of businesses, from health care to retail to restaurants.
"We have a strong Chamber of Commerce that promotes the business community," Freeman says. "Citizens and businesses support each other in Amarillo, and they want to see each other succeed."
Becoming a magnet for start-ups
From an economic standpoint, the Greater Amarillo area now ranks as a very attractive place to start, grow, or relocate a business. "It used to be that West Texas felt somewhat isolated, and that seemed to discourage some start-ups from coming out here," Ewing acknowledges. "However, with the gains in telecommunications, transportation, and a national research university, start-ups find this area to be well-suited for growth. Real estate is relatively inexpensive, skilled workers are abundant, and the area has a great quality of life for employees."