The region's growth dominated discussion by university, city and county officials at Wednesday's Economic Outlook Conference.
The Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce's conference brought together government and university workers to preview what major initiatives and future challenges the new year will hold. The range of topics underscored the expected growth, and the infrastructure, business and transportation changes and needs that come along with it.
James Gaines, research economist with Texas A&M's Real Estate Center, showed the state demographer's estimates that Bryan-College Station's population is expected to be about 400,000 in 2050. Gaines said those estimates look to be conservative, though.
"It could well be that the growth could be closer to 500,000 by 2050," he said.
That mirrors expected growth across the state -- in the last 40 years, Texas gained 14 million, but is projected to add another 30 million in the next 40 years.
Bryan-College Station had record-high median home prices in 2013, with the average home selling for $160,000. The market is also more concentrated in higher costs, with 70 percent of homes sold priced between $100,000 and $250,000, an increase from 47 percent of home sales in 2000, Gaines said.
At the highest end of home prices, homes valued at more than $250,000 made up nearly 20 percent of sales in 2013, up from just 5 percent in 2000.
Kelly Templin, College Station's city manager, said the city is standing on the precipice of a six-digit population. Estimates show the city is fewer than 100 residents away from reaching 100,000, but Templin said what jumps out is that students now make up less than 50 percent of the city's population -- a first for the city.
"That says a lot about the diversification of the local economy, about outside jobs -- it's just a very interesting departure from our history," Templin said.
Bryan Deputy City Manger Joey Dunn addressed the issue of infrastructure in the older city, outlining how money for improvements will be allocated in the city's five districts.
Districts 1 and 2, which represent the west, downtown and north regions of town, are considered the most in need of infrastructure improvements, and will be allocated accordingly: District 1 will be receiving $14.8 million and District 2 will get $14.9 million in capital improvement and street maintenance funding between 2014 and 2018. Comparatively, District 4 will be receiving $5.3 million in that time.
The conference's keynote was delivered by Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Slive was joined by Justin Connolly, senior vice president of programming for College Networks at ESPN, who came to Aggieland touting the new SEC Network.
The SEC Network launches in late August with exclusive access to the Texas A&M vs. South Carolina game.
The impact of the SEC was relevant throughout the conference's presentations. Shannon Overby, president and CEO of the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau, said total direct travel spending amounted to $422 million in 2012 and generated $7.6 million in local taxes.
With the growth comes the addition of seven new hotels to the area, all of which are under construction currently or soon to break ground. That's a 27 percent increase in hotel rooms in the community over the next 18 to 24 months, Overby said.
Michael Parks, assistant executive director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, and Tom Wilkinson, executive director of the BVCOG, spoke about transportation and education in the area at a county level. Parks hit on the hot-button issue of high-speed rail, which he said is gaining momentum nationally and could come through the area. Wilkinson discussed the skills gap and the need to sync-up education opportunities with the needs of the labor force.
Brett Giroir, interim executive vice president and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, previewed a future that includes more than 1,000 new jobs that will be filled through both recruiting top talent and local Texas A&M and Blinn students.
The center had more than 2,400 students in the fall semester, and there are now 200 students in a class in the College of Medicine to help fill the shortage of physicians in the state. The total student body population is up to 800. He said the HSC is undergoing a "significant culture shift" to move away from rural primary care to a comprehensive approach that can rival any in the country.
Catherine Hejl, district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, talked about upcoming projects. This month alone, there were four traffic fatalities, and two of those people were not wearing a seat belt. Hejl said there are a lot of needs and not a lot of money, but traffic counts along major thoroughfares have not increased between 2007 and 2012. Traffic along Texas 6, for example, was down 15 percent, she said.
Some of the projects in the works include the 2818-Villa Maria grade separation and the raised median on F.M. 2818 from Welsh Avenue to Texas Avenue.