The State needs rural Texas – and it needs to start planning

by | Aug 6, 2020 | Opinion

Iconic ranches, farms and small towns sustain about 3 million Texans — a population larger than the City of Houston’s.

The sense of community, plentiful open space and great quality of life — all found in places like West Texas and the Panhandle — have sustained families for generations. We also power the state’s econo­my, supplying energy, food and fiber to the world.

Yet West Texas, and particu­larly rural West Texas, faces challenges that range from shuttering hospitals to inad­equate infrastructure; these issues could spell trouble for all of Texas unless we come together as a state to address them head on.

Many of these issues have been illuminated by the coro­navirus. Shaping Our Future, the seminal strategic frame­work just released by the non-profit group Texas 2036, makes such challenges facing Texas even clearer.

The two of us serve on the board of Texas 2036, which encourages long-term, data-driven planning at the state and local level to ensure Texas re­mains the best place to live and work a generation from now. The report, coupled with the pandemic, shows how badly West Texans need that kind of far-sighted planning and prep­aration.

The strategic framework notes that Texas is expected to add about 10 million people between now and 2036, the year of Texas’ bicentennial. But 90 percent of that popula­tion growth is expected to oc­cur in urban areas. And while the number of jobs in Texas could grow by nearly 20 per­cent over the next decade, jobs in almost half of Texas’ coun­ties — mostly rural counties — will actually shrink unless action is taken.

In the meantime, rural Tex­ans struggle to access resources that their urban and suburban counterparts take for granted.

Preparing the next genera­tion is key, yet many students in rural communities have less access to postsecondary educa­tion. Nearly 60 percent of ru­ral school districts do not offer Advanced Placement courses, and the distance from a high school to a higher education institution can stretch well over 100 miles.

Rural Texans also lack ac­cess to health care and face worsening health outcomes. Texas ranks last among its peer states in rural access to care — 63 counties have no hospitals at all, and 35 have no primary care physicians. Obesity also is more common in rural regions, and rural Texans die of heart disease and stroke at rates far higher than Texans overall.

Then there’s broadband in­ternet access — which in recent months has offered a lifeline to millions of Texans through home offices, virtual school classrooms and telemedicine appointments with physicians. In Texas’ urban areas, 97 per­cent of the population can at least access broadband, but nearly one-third of rural Tex­ans cannot say the same.

Fortunately, we’re Texans — more than that, we’re small-town and small-city Texans — and we’ve never shied away from a challenge. The truth is that every one of these num­bers stands as an opportunity to make West Texas even more of a powerhouse than it’s ever been. The state just needs the backing of its people.

Show your support by go­ing to Texas 2036’s website — www.texas2036.org/Future-Of-Rural — and signing up to support rural Texas. The orga­nization will keep you up-to-date on key issues facing rural areas and the rest of the state, and we’ll share opportunities to help Texas communities thrive.

It’s always been easy to see Texas’ past in its rolling plains, small towns, farms and ranch­es. Look a little closer and you’ll see the future there as well. We simply need to come together as a state and grasp it.

For more stories like this, see the Aug. 6 issue or subscribe online.

By Trent McKnight and Abel Castro • Trent McKnight is a rancher in Throckmorton and former candidate for the state legisla­ture, and Abel Castro is the im­mediate past chair of the Lub­bock Chamber of Commerce.

0 Comments

Related News

Knowing beans about chili

Knowing beans about chili

Knowing beans about chili “Oh, waiter. There’s a bean in my chili.” So goes the encounter every Southerner dreads when he orders a bowl of red and is served chili with beans. There are certain missteps in the South that are unforgivable. Asking a girl out without...

read more
Don’t Stand Alone

Don’t Stand Alone

As Americans we love “do it yourself”. DIY has become a national phenomenon. There are whole TV networks dedicated to DIY. Nothing wrong with that of course. It’s fun to figure things out on your own and complete a project then sit back and admire your work. ...

read more
Get closer to God by slowing down

Get closer to God by slowing down

By Todd Baughman I don’t know about you, but I get distracted easily.  Just typing that last sentence I’m pretty sure I had about 18 new thoughts about what I could / should be doing right now. Do you often load up your calendar and your mind with actions and...

read more
Just a bit peaved

Just a bit peaved

By John Moore I used to pay little attention to the world’s little idiosyncrasies, but now they seem ever present. And it’s more than slightly annoying. I can’t be the only one. When I was getting change back from the fast-food drive-thru recently, it all became...

read more
Circumstances don’t control my attitude

Circumstances don’t control my attitude

By Jeff Denton Cancer. Not what I was expecting to hear from the doctor. But surprisingly comforting at some level. It sure explained the extreme sickness I was experiencing. It explained twenty pounds of weight loss in three weeks. It explained months of pain that...

read more
Love the unlovable

Love the unlovable

By Rick Wood There’s so much going on in our world today…just turn on the news and you can hear of the tragedies that are taking place throughout our nation. Here in Texas, the town of Uvalde is mourning the deaths of nineteen elementary students and two teachers less...

read more
The Clothesline

The Clothesline

By John Moore We had a clothesline, but no washer or dryer. So the Laundromat was a weekly destination. Today, most folks would find the absence of a laundry room in the home as foreign as no air conditioning or Wi-Fi. Fifty years ago, most...

read more
What are you listening for

What are you listening for

By Ray Miranda Two guys are walking in the heart of New York City. As you can imagine they hear honking horns, the sounds of cars moving, people talking – really, just a whole at once. As one guy talks, he notices the other looks like his mind is wandering. He’s...

read more
Veterans