AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Despite recent downturn in the oil industry, the Texas panhandle's economy remains strong.
That's according to the most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which analyzes economic data and trends for our region from March 2015 - March 2016.
Even with some job and revenue losses from changes in oil prices, the panhandle's unemployment rate remains two points below the national average and one point below the state average.
"It's a little bit surprising," said Kyle Ingham, Local Government Services Director at the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission. "I think we've done well in recent years in our economic diversification. We have new industries coming in, in the wind and renewable energies, dairies, poultry industries; we have a lot of different things coming in to the region that's very positive."
A community that boasts a strong worth ethic and a willingness to work are what Ingham said are the biggest strengths for the panhandle's economy.
But two major factors could lead to challenges in the upcoming years.
"Some of the threats that we see against us come in the form of those low oil and gas and commodity prices," said Ingham. "If those stay down, it poses a threat to the region's economy. Those aren't things that we can really control other than diversifying the economy in years to come. Housing can be a challenge going forward. We have a lot of our rural communities that are looking at expanding housing to the best of their ability."
As the panhandle's population grows, so does the chance for economic improvement as more jobs are introduced in multiple industries.
"We actually have a very healthy population growth," said Ingham. "We're not exploding like some of the metroplex I-35 areas in population where our infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the demand. But we do have some growth within the region. You see somewhere between 5-10% [population growth] every decade for the last few decades, and that's a very positive, manageable trend."