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Bright Lights and Big Business

The growing allure of Dallas for the industry

Some call it “The Big D,” while high-tech types refer to it as the “Silicon Prairie.” And fans of the wildly popular 1980s and recently resurrected television series, Dallas—made famous by big hats and big hair—often assume that cowboys still outnumber bankers.

Yet the jewel of northeast Texas is home to many Fortune 500 companies and serves as a national hub for a number of industries including financial services, information technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, and defense.

Today’s Big D boasts just as many briefcases and tablets as cowboy hats and boots.

Burgeoning Growth
Like other major urban centers across the Lone Star State, Dallas is a boomtown. It is the country’s ninth-largest city and home to 1.2 million people, 25.4 percent of whom are foreign-born. It occupies a strategic position—just northeast of center—in a massive state, and boasts a sprawling international aviation megaplex that ranks among the busiest airports for passenger traffic in the world.

Over the past several years, Dallas has seen its economic fortunes rise steadily, if not meteorically, even as the rest of the country shook off the last vestiges of the recession. Not only are there plenty of available jobs but, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce, job growth is projected to continue trending upward at an annual rate of 2.8 percent through 2019.

All this good news has had people flocking to Texas: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, from August 2011 to July 2012 more than 427,000 people moved to cities in the Lone Star State.

Texas has four of the fastest-growing counties and the two fastest-growing metropolitan statistical areas in the country. Among them was the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which has a population of 6.5 million spread over 9,286 square miles.

Boom times in the metroplex are in full swing and predicted to continue, although at a somewhat slower pace, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In 2013, the Dallas-Fort Worth economy grew by 3.4 percent; this year, that number is expected to drop slightly to 3.3 percent. Much of this robust growth has been fueled by the area’s diverse business landscape, especially the quickly evolving IT and telecommunications industries.

When Cotton Was King
Dallas wasn’t always a hotbed of high-tech. Once upon a time, the city—and neighboring towns—relied on agriculture to fuel the economy. Founded in 1841, Dallas wasn’t more than a spot on the shifting map of Texas until 1873, when multiple rail lines came to town.