NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Population declines in much of Deep East Texas continues to be a concern. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments sees the trend serious enough that it wants to heighten awareness, so it sent out the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau to news outlets.
By population standards Deep East Texas stopped being a unified region four years ago. Only the five counties along the US Highway 59 corridor experienced population growth. San Jacinto, Polk, Angelina, Nacogdoches, and Shelby counties grew by over 2,800 people. Their gain is a loss for the seven other counties in DETCOG where population dropped by just over 3,000.
"When the population decreases in the counties you have less taxpayers who are supporting the infrastructure and what we call the social services and things that go on in the region," said Walter Diggles, the executive director of DETCOG. "It effects the schools because the schools the population per capita is going down also."
The common factor for the entire DETCOG region is an overall shift in population. The number of whites dropped by 1.2 percent, and blacks decreased by less than 1 percent. Hispanics in the region increased by 1.3 percent.
"I'm not sure we're planning for that growth in the school system," Diggles said.
Diggles is advising a focus on the 8.3-percent increase in individuals 65 years and older to East Texas. More seniors could be attracted by increasing retirement communities and health facilities.
In addition, remember US 59 brings business and with each improvement paves the way toward economic activity for those moving from the less well traveled areas.
Region wide, Deep East Texas is not keeping up with growth in more urban areas. However, the state's demographic shifts are very similar to those seen in Deep East Texas.