The “big” in “Big D” will get a lot bigger in the next decade, experts agree. The only question is by exactly how much.
By 2020, between one and two million more people will call North Texas home, according to most projections.
In the past decade, Dallas-Fort Worth grew to the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, behind only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The current population of 6.5 million has more than doubled in the last 30 years.
"I really believe we are going to see another surge of people and business into North Texas,” said SMU professor Bud Weinstein, an economist and expert on population trends.
The potential is almost unlimited, Weinstein said.
"One of the real plusses about our region is that we don't have any natural barriers to growth,” Weinstein said. “Well, I guess once you get to the Red River, if you keep growing, you're in a different state!"
The current explosion in the Latino population will continue, experts say.
"As long as Texas is North of all the Spanish-speaking countries, immigrants will come. This was their country,” said Adelfa Callejo, a Dallas attorney and long-time political activist.
According to one projection by the Texas state demographer, Latinos will number 3.2 million in 2020, nearly catching up to the 3.6 million estimated Anglos.
Hispanics would become the largest racial group in DFW a few years later. This scenario assumes population trends from 2000-2007 will continue in the next decade.
"I wish that people would not think this is a bad thing and think in terms of the economic benefits, of having a multi-cultural, multilingual society,” Callejo said.
Experts also predict other trends will continue; the explosion in the Asian population, more people living in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth, and faster growth outside the land-locked city of Dallas, which now makes up only one-sixth of the metro area.
"Fort Worth has a long way to go to catch up to Dallas, but Fort Worth has an advantage that Dallas doesn't have,” Weinstein said. “Fort Worth can annex. And Fort Worth has been smart enough to annex ahead of development."
Fort Worth covers nearly 300 square miles and has a population of 720,000. By comparison, Dallas is spread over 385 square miles with 1,279,000 people.
“The people are coming, ready or not,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
Price said he worries about providing basic services for the influx of new arrivals.
"I just don't see the urgency in making plans for that population migration,” Price said. "I know it's the kind of things everybody takes for granted. You turn on the water, the spigot is going to be there. You flip the light switch, the utility is going to be there. We've got some challenges in this state."
Others predict the dynamic North Texas economy in North Texas that has created so much growth will continue to adapt to future challenges.
"I think all that diversity and the ability to draw people from other states and from other countries is a major source of our region's success,” Weinstein said.