Interstate 35 is the economic heart of the Texas. This north-south artery pumps life into industries, attracting companies, talent, and investment. For entrepreneurs, recent college graduates seeking job opportunities, or established professionals ready for new challenges, the I-35 corridor is the place to be. In this article, we will explore the major metros, companies, and demographics of the economic powerhouse that is I-35.
In 2014, the 21 counties along I-35 encompassed almost 40 percent of the Texas population and over 40 percent of Texas jobs. Population and employment along the I-35 corridor are projected to increase by 82 percent and 77 percent, respectively, by 2040. Rapid and steady population growth, coupled with a highly educated workforce makes the region ideal for long term investment. The future is here, and it is happening along I-35.
The I-35 Corridor: A Vital Transportation Artery in Texas
As the central corridor running north to south through Texas, Interstate 35 is a vital transportation artery for people and commerce. Over its 778 miles spanning from Laredo to Duluth, Minnesota, I-35 moves millions of vehicles each year and serves as an economic engine for cities along its path.
In Texas, I-35 connects four of the state’s largest cities: Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth. This corridor is experiencing massive growth, with an increasing flow of trade, investment, talent, and innovation between cities. Dubbed the “NAFTA Highway” I-35 transports goods and services from Mexican and US companies alike. It is a crucial channel for Texas’ import and export activities with its largest trade partner, Mexico.
Key Cities and Regions Seeing Massive Growth Along I-35
The I-35 corridor in Texas is home to some of the fastest growing cities and regions in the U.S. Several key areas along I-35 are experiencing massive population, job, and economic growth.
According to Forbes, Joel Kotkin, who is recognized as a leading expert in geography, stated that if one were to search for the next major American urban area, the emerging San Antonio-Austin corridor would be a prime choice. Kotkin highlights the presence of universities, affordable land costs, and flourishing job opportunities as key factors contributing to the sustained growth in this region.
The Austin-Round Rock metro area has been one of the fastest growing in the country for decades. Major employers like Dell, IBM, Apple, and Amazon have large presences here. The area is a hub for technology, business, healthcare, education, and transportation.
San Antonio, home to five military bases and a large healthcare/bioscience industry, has also seen substantial growth. According to a recent U.S. Census report, the city is also the 3rd fastest-growing city in the nation. Tourism flourishes around the Alamo and River Walk. Low costs of living and doing business have attracted major companies like Toyota, Medtronic, and Capital One.
The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area is an economic powerhouse and logistical hub. Major airports and highways like I-35 connect people and commerce. Growth in finance, technology, transportation, and population has earned Dallas the nickname “Silicon Prairie”. Fortune 500 companies based here include ExxonMobil, AT&T, and Southwest Airlines.
Centrally located Waco is home to Baylor University and a growing hub for manufacturing, healthcare, technology, and transportation/logistics along I-35. Waco’s lower costs of living and revitalized downtown are attracting new residents and businesses.
In short, cities and regions along I-35 in Texas are experiencing massive growth thanks to business-friendly environments, skilled workforces, lower costs of living, and location along a major transportation corridor.
Industries Driving Economic Development in the I-35 Corridor
Manufacturing has a long history in the region and continues to expand. Major manufacturing industries include aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, and telecommunications equipment. Top employers include Toyota, GM, and Lockheed Martin. These large companies also support networks of smaller suppliers and vendors.
Technology is a fast-growing sector, especially in Austin, nicknamed the “Silicon Hills”, where Tesla, Dell, IBM, Apple, Amazon, Oracle, and other tech giants have a major presence. Austin is also a hotspot for startups and entrepreneurs. The tech industry brings high-paying jobs and attracts a young, educated workforce.
Healthcare is another economic driver, with major hospitals, research centers, and healthcare companies based along I-35. Top employers include Baylor Scott & White Health, Dell Seton Medical Center, and MD Anderson Cancer Center. An aging population and increased access to insurance have fueled growth in the healthcare industry.
Warehousing and distribution have expanded rapidly to serve San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Major distribution hubs for companies like Amazon, UPS, and FedEx are located along the corridor. As e-commerce and same-day delivery increase, demand for warehouse space and workers will continue to rise.
In addition, education, finance, tourism, and corporate headquarters are significant contributors. Major universities like UT Austin and UT San Antonio also support economic activity.
With a strategic location, skilled workforce, pro-business environment, and variety of thriving industries, the I-35 corridor is poised for ongoing prosperity and development. By facilitating connections between cities and enabling the flow of goods, capital, and people, Interstate 35 itself has been instrumental to growth along its path through Texas.
Demographic Changes Fueling Population Growth Along I-35
The Interstate 35 corridor in Texas has experienced significant demographic changes that are fueling major population growth.
The age distribution along I-35 is trending younger. The median age in cities along I-35 is 1-3 years younger than the national median age of 38.2 years. The largest age group is 25-44 years old, comprising 27-30% of the population in major metros like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
The younger population is attracted to the major cities along I-35 for several reasons, including job opportunities, an affordable cost of living, and an vibrant culture. The influx of young, educated workers is driving economic growth through increased productivity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity
The racial and ethnic makeup along I-35 is becoming increasingly diverse. The white population is declining as a percentage of the total population, while the Hispanic and Asian populations are growing significantly. In Austin and San Antonio, over 60% of the population growth from 2000 to 2010 was due to an increase in the Hispanic population.
The greater diversity brings economic benefits like increased trade, cultural exports, and human capital. However, it also brings challenges like language barriers, income inequality across groups, and cultural tensions that must be addressed to maintain social cohesion.
Educational attainment along I-35 is rising steadily. The percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher is increasing in major metros, and significantly outpacing the national average. In Austin, 43.5% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 31.5% nationally.
A more educated workforce is beneficial for economic growth, as workers can take on higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs. Educated populations also tend to be more entrepreneurial, with higher rates of business formation and innovation. Continued investment in schools and universities along I-35 will be crucial to developing human capital and sustaining long-term economic prosperity.
Approximately 86% of the total Texas population is located in counties along and to the east of I-35, forming a crucial corridor for economic activity and growth in the state. From Dallas-Fort Worth in the north to San Antonio and Austin in the south, businesses of all kinds have located along this highway to tap into the resources, talent, and opportunities it provides. The cities and towns along I-35 have cultivated diverse, thriving economies that continue to attract investment, create jobs, and support local communities.