McLennan County has the pulse of economic growth in the Heart of Texas Region. Waco and the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area is the strongest industrial and commercial center within the area.
McLennan County and Waco are located in central Texas along the I-35 corridor, approximately halfway between Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, within 200 miles of all major metropolitan areas in Texas.
McLennan County is the most populated county in the Heart of Texas Region, with a 2019 population of 256,623. Waco is the county seat and largest city in McLennan County, with an estimated population of 139,236. The 2019 Waco MSA population was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 273,920. And significant growth is expected for the area. In 2017, the economic consultant organization, The Perryman Group, forecasted the MSA population to reach 323,000 by 2040.
Like regions across the country, unemployment in McLennan County has increased somewhat in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Texas Workforce Commission reported that McLennan County had a total Civilian Labor Force of 122,801 in November 2020, with an unemployment rate of 6.6%, significantly lower than the Texas total of 8% unemployed. In comparison, McLennan County unemployment was 3.1% in November 2019.
McLennan County is a balanced economic region, with a range of business sectors centered around Waco. Major business clusters include manufacturing and food and beverage production, with major employers like Allergan, Cargill Foods, L-3 Integrated Systems, Mars Chocolate North America, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms. The area continues to grow with new investments, with available land centered in Waco at three industrial parks, the Texas Central Park, Waco International Aviation Park and Waco Regional Airport Industrial Park. The 11-th largest Christian university in the country, Baylor University, is in Waco and offers a collaborative partnership with the area fostering high technology developments.
McLennan County has historically placed a large significance on developing a favorable mix between urban and rural amenities. For example, Waco is a fantastic city for people of all ages. Cameron Park is the second largest urban park in the country, behind only New York City’s Central Park. It includes the Cameron Park Zoo. Many cultural amenities can be found in and around Waco, from the Waco Symphony Orchestra to the Mayborn Museum and Dr. Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute. The Lake Waco reservoir is located on the western edge of Waco and offers numerous outdoor and leisure opportunities.
Click on the cities within McLennan County for more information:
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