Full disclosure upfront: I am an unabashed fan of the Rio Grande Valley and our neighboring communities on the southern bank of the Rio Grande. Even more disclosure: As the executive director serving the members of the Rio South Texas Economic Council, I get paid to be a cheerleader for our region.
Yet those who’ve known me for a while can attest that my enthusiasm for our sunny corner of the world has been alive and well way before a fancy title or a paycheck was involved. As Valleyites, we often tend to be our own area’s worst critics, but I’d like to take the opportunity of this guest column, actually a series of guest columns, to tell you that, contrary to what some choose to believe, the Valley is blessed. Very blessed. Please allow me to count our first blessing today: Demographics.
We may not realize it due to its fragmentation, but the Valley’s population is large. Very large, even by Texas standards. More than 1.35 million people call the RGV home, that is more than the cities of San Antonio or Austin. If you add the eight municipios on the southern riverbank, that population swells by two million plus, to the vicinity of 3.5 million. That is a big crowd, by any measure.
And we are not only numerous, we are also young. Very young, especially by global standards. The median age of the four-county area we call the Valley is a smidge under 30. Our neighbors to the south are even younger. Their median age is below 27. The median age in the United States as a whole is 38. In Germany and Japan it’s 47.
You know what else? We are getting younger and more populous by the day. The RGV’s total fertility rate, or the average number of children per woman, is around 2.5. Down south it’s 2.4. By the way, for the developed world, 2.1 is the number you want to see to keep the population steady. The number of the United States as a whole is 1.8, and 1.5 in both Germany and Japan. While other countries are aging out of existence, we are building elementary school after elementary school.
Why is that a blessing? Because the companies of the future, just like the companies of today, will need a plentiful workforce to operate, grow and succeed. And that workforce will need to be young, or maybe better put as “native to modern technology.”
We already have that, around 1.5 million people in the Rio South Texas region (Rio South Texas equals the RGV plus the southern riverbank) are under the age of 25. And, in stark contrast to current industrial hubs around the world as outlined above, that number will only grow.
In order to attract these companies to our region, this workforce will need to have the right skills. Having the institutions to teach these right skills to this workforce is crucial, but that is another blessing which we will count on another day.