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By W. Gardner Selby March 29, 2016

PGA Tour commissioner says Austin 'fastest-growing city in the country' last five years

The PGA Tour's chief, otherwise just another Austin visitor impressed by the capital’s vim and vig, ventured a claim about local growth that made us wonder.

On March 27, 2016, the tour's commissioner, Tim Finchem, told reporters including the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls that the 2016 World Golf Championship-Dell Match Play Championship wrapping up that day at the Austin Country Club had been a "home run."

"Austin is such a cool town," Finchem said, expressing hope the event would occur there again.

And, he said, "Austin’s the fastest-growing city in the country the last five years."

Good grief. Really?

We’ve gauged before how much Austin grows--even by the day.

But has it outpaced the growth of every U.S. city over the past five years?

News story Finchem's likely source

We failed to hear back from Finchem or the PGA Tour. But we suspect an American-Statesman news story published three days before he spoke fueled his claim. That story said: "From July 2014 to July 2015, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area — which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties — grew from 1,943,465 to 2,000,860, making it the fastest-growing metropolitan area with a population over 1 million for the fifth year in a row."

Ryan Robinson, Austin’s city demographer, commented: "That of course won’t be news to anyone who lives here. We’ve become so accustomed to that very high level of population growth being part of our daily existence." Robinson further said Austin has the most diversified economy in the state.

The fastest-growth distinction described in the news story drew on just-updated U.S. Census Bureau data indicating that from July 2014 through June 2015, the Austin area’s 2.95 percent population growth outpaced the 2.6 percent growth in the Orlando, Florida, area, which landed No. 2 nationally among the largest metropolitan areas, as this compilation shows (check out the Statesman’s population interactive here):










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Houston area led nation in raw growth

But by raw population gains, the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area gained the most residents nationally in 2014-15 and also over five years during which the region drew nearly 750,000 additional residents, according to bureau figures. Dallas-Fort Worth landed second over those years, notching 676,582 added residents. In contrast, the Austin area’s five-year gain of 284,571 residents placed it 11th nationally in raw growth, according to the bureau.

A March 2016 Houston Chronicle news story noted: "As a whole, the so-called Texas Triangle of Houston, Austin/San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth added more people last year than any other state in the country, growing by more than 400,000 residents, or roughly the population of Minneapolis."

Authorities confirm Austin region’s leading-edge growth

But rates of population growth are arguably the best way to fairly compare changes in different regions and cities. So we asked federal and Austin experts if the capital indeed led the nation in its rate of population growth.

Basically yes, we heard, with caveats.

By email, a Census Bureau spokesman, Robert Bernstein, provided a chart indicating that among cities of 50,000 residents or more, Austin by itself -- not considering nearby cities and counties -- ranked 23rd for its 12.5 percent growth from April 2010 through June 2014. The fastest-growing municipality was South Jordan City, Utah, which is part of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area.

According to the bureau, Texas cities that grew faster than Austin in that period include a Dallas suburb, Frisco (23.9 percent); Cedar Park, northwest of Austin; McKinney; Conroe; Midland; Pearland; New Braunfels; Odessa; League City and Round Rock (which placed No. 22 nationally with 12.8 percent growth).

But Austin by itself sticks out on the chart as the most populous city also ranking among the nation’s highest rate of growth. That is, Austin’s estimated July 2014 population of 912,791 outpaced the population of the next-most-populous city with faster growth -- Irvine, California, home to 248,531 residents -- by 267 percent.

Bernstein told us that if you limit your focus to cities of 250,000 residents or more, Austin ranked No. 1 in its percentage growth over the 2010-2014 period. He said city population changes from July 2014 through June 2015 would be released in May 2016.

Separately by email, Beverly Kerr of the Austin Chamber of Commerce said that if you consider all metropolitan areas, the Austin region didn’t rank No. 1 in percentage growth from April 2010 through June 2015. Among "all metros," Kerr said, the Midland area and The Villages region in Florida outgrew the greater Austin area, per this chart she downloaded. Bernstein, following up, told us the greater Austin area ranked No. 1 in growth rate among metro areas with 200,000 residents or more.

Our ruling

Finchem said: "Austin’s the fastest-growing city in the country the last five years."

Census data support his claim, though a few clarifications are in order.

Over five years, the greater Austin area, sweeping in several counties, had the fastest growth rate of any metro area that was also home to 200,000 residents or more. And from April 2010 through June 2014, Austin by itself ranked first by growth rate among cities with 250,000 residents or more; less populous cities grew faster.

We rate the happy tourist’s statement Mostly True.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Sports commentary, "Bohls: WGC-Dell, ACC, Day win big," Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman, posted online March 27, 2016

Truth-O-Meter article, "Austin consultant says 110 people moving to Austin tomorrow and the next day and the next day," PolitiFact Texas, Nov. 14, 2014

News story, "Austin metro area surpasses 2 million residents," American-Statesman, March 24, 2016

News story, "Census data shows Houston leads in population growth across U.S.," KPRC-TV, Houston, March 24, 2016

News story, "Fall in oil prices does little to slow Houston's population growth," Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2016

Emails, Robert Bernstein, public affairs specialist, U.S. Census Bureau, March 28, 2016

Chart, "Cumulative Estimates of Resident Population Change for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More in 2010,  Ranked by Percent Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014 - United States -- Places of 50,000+ Population," U.S. Census Bureau (received by email from Robert Bernstein)

Emails, Beverly Kerr, vice president, Research, Austin Chamber of Commerce, March 28, 2016

Chart, "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015," U.S. Census Bureau (received by email from Beverly Kerr)

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More by W. Gardner Selby

PGA Tour commissioner says Austin 'fastest-growing city in the country' last five years

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