Awesome Austin & Other Stories

Is everyone moving to Austin? Not quite, but it might look that way given the newly-released annual population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Austin experienced the fastest rate of population growth of all major U.S. metros in 2017. Its population rose 2.7% last year, nearly four times the national rate of 0.7%. Austin welcomed 55,000 residents bringing the total to 2.1 million.

Analysis of the new census data also reveals a handful of other mid-sized metros that the commercial real estate investment world should continue to explore for opportunity. Raleigh ranked second for population growth rate at 2.3% followed closely by Orlando (2.3%) and Las Vegas (2.2%). Charlotte ranked sixth at 2.0%, San Antonio seventh at 2.0%, Jacksonville eighth at 1.9% and Nashville 10th at 1.8%.

Dynamic Dallas

A 200-mile drive north from Austin on I-35, brings one to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. DFW was the country’s unchallenged leader again for total population growth with 146,000 new residents in 2017. As a DFW resident with a long cross-metro commute, I can attest that this is not fake news. And, as CBRE’s Texas research guru Robert Kramp loves to point out, DFW welcomed 400 new residents every day last year. The 146,000-population gain brought DFW’s total count to 7.4 million.

Dallas/Ft. Worth also experienced the fifth highest growth rate (2.0%) among the 53 metros in the U.S. with at least one million population.

South of Dallas, 250 miles is Houston, a metro whose population stats clearly show the metro’s strengthening economy in 2017. Houston ranked second in the country for total population increase with a gain of 94,000 residents. That’s nearly 260 new residents per day. Houston’s total population rose to 6.9 million in 2017.

Rounding out the top 10 metros for total population growth are Atlanta (89,000), Phoenix (89,000), Washington, D.C. (66,000), Seattle (64,000) and the Inland Empire (57,000), Orlando (56,000), Austin (55,000) and Tampa (55,000).

Phoenix Rises

The most notable change in metro rank in 2017 was that of Phoenix’s rise to 11th place surpassing San Francisco. (Note that the census definitions used for this ranking are the official metropolitan statistical areas where San Francisco and San Jose are treated as separate MSAs. Were they combined as in the combined statistical areas (CSAs), the metro would rank as the sixth largest metro in the county.) Phoenix was also among the top 10 metros for rate of growth at 1.9%.

I find that many people in the industry still regard Phoenix as a mid-sized metro. Hardly. In 2017, Phoenix’s population reached 4.7 million. Furthermore, at current growth rates, Phoenix is positioned to surpass Boston in 2019 and become the 10th largest metro in the U.S.

Las Vegas’s rapid growth propelled this metro to surpass Cincinnati in rank. Las Vegas became the 28th largest metro with a gain of 47,000 residents bringing the total to 2.2 million.

Not to stir up any rivalries in Ohio, but Columbus’s gain of 32,000 new residents moved this metro ahead of Cleveland in rank. They are now 32nd and 33rd with populations of 2.08 million and 2.06 million, respectively. Cincinnati is still larger at 2.18 million, and at current growth rates is safe from Columbus catching up until 2023.

Cincinnati’s bigger threat is Austin. Austin did not gain rank in 2017. However, in 2018 the Central Texas metro will very likely surpass Kansas City and then surpass Cincinnati in rank in 2019.

One Million Club

Honolulu has been on the verge of joining the “One Million Club” for several years. I thought it would happen in 2017, but the metro’s population remains about 10,000 residents shy of the mark.

Grand Rapids stands out for me personally. This Michigan metro joined the One Million Club in 2012 and maintains a solid position in the club, not surprising given the new office workplace designs spreading across America’s office landscape and the requirement for new office furniture systems and furniture. This trend certainly keeps Steelcase, Herman Miller and others office furniture companies fully engaged in Grand Rapids.

But I’ve never been to Grand Rapids. I have visited ALL of the other members of the Club. So perhaps in 2018, I’ll figure out an excuse to visit Grand Rapids. And then, on to Honolulu in anticipation of next year’s membership roster.

By Jeanette Rice, Americas Head of Multifamily Research, CBRE.

A summary of the 2017 population statistics is available upon request to