Study: Best Places in Texas to Get Rich

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Different states have different stereotypes of wealth. In New York, it's hard-driving guys and gals in suits, while in California, it's pleasure-seekers in limousines. But if your vision of riches involves a no-nonsense attitude and some cowboy boots, you might want to make your fortune in Texas. We've put together a list of the 10 counties in the Lone Star State that have high pay, strong innovation and big growth that could help you on your way to your 10-gallon-hat dreams.

Study Methodology

Looking at the 203 counties in Texas that have populations of 5,000 or more, we considered three factors:

  1. Percentage of high-income households
  2. Local income growth
  3. Patents granted

We started by looking at the percentage of households in each area with incomes of $150,000 a year or more. This data, from the U.S. Census, gives a sense of the prevalence of high-salary jobs in an area. On average, in the counties we examined, just over 5 percent of households made that much.

Next we looked at how quickly fortunes are rising in each county. To figure this out, we checked the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s personal income summary numbers to see how much per capita income changed between 2006 and 2011. The average here was almost 27 percent. Note that these numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation, so that percentage is not quite as impressive as it sounds, but it does provide a way to compare counties.

Last, since innovation is a big way many people get rich no matter where they live, we looked at the number of patents granted in each county in 2011, based on data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The average number was 37.

1. Midland

  • High income percentage: 12.3%
  • Income growth: 35.2%
  • Patents: 18

If you’re wondering how people get rich in Midland County, which is not far from the New Mexico border, you’ll find a clue on the Midland City website, which features a drilling rig in its logo. Governing magazine reports that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has paid off big-time for the area around Midland, which has become “the nation’s fastest-booming metro area.” For Midland County, population 135,000, that means income growth of 35 percent between 2006 and 2011 and more than 12 percent of households earning $150,000 or more a year, although the number of patents granted (18) was distinctly below average.

2. Kendall

  • High income percentage: 18.6%
  • Income growth: 30.2%
  • Patents: 26

Boerne, the seat of Kendall County, has been a bedroom community of San Antonio since the 1950s, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Moreover, the San Antonio area is one of the fastest-growing places in the country when it comes to jobs. Kendall has around 33,000 residents, and many of them are pretty rich. More than 18 percent of households here bring in $150,000 a year or more, the fourth highest percentage among the counties we evaluated. Incomes in Kendall are growing faster than average, at over 30 percent between 2006 and 2011.

3. Chambers

  • High income percentage: 12.3%
  • Income growth: 39%
  • Patents: 4

Chambers County is similar in size to Kendall, and it’s also located outside one of the state’s big cities - in this case, Houston. More than 12 percent of households earn high incomes, and per-capita income grew by an impressive 39 percent from 2006 to 2011. The area is not just wealthy but beautiful, with protected coastline, wetlands and river areas. It’s not a particular hotbed of innovation, though, with only four permits recorded in 2011.

4. Parker

  • High income percentage: 12.5%
  • Income growth: 25.9%
  • Patents: 24

This collection of small towns in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to about 150,000 people. Like Chambers County, Parker boasts a population where more than 12 percent of households make $150,000 or more a year, although income growth has not been as rapid. The county seat, Weatherford, is home to a two-year college, Weatherford College. In addition, the county has a reasonable level of innovation for its size, to judge by the 24 patents issued in 2011. But it’s not a huge center of employment, with many residents commuting to Fort Worth, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

5. Gillespie

  • High income percentage: 6.9%
  • Income growth: 32.6%
  • Patents: 13

Gillespie County is a bit more than an hour’s drive from both San Antonio and Austin, but it has enough economic activity of its own that you don’t have to go to those cities to find interesting industries. It’s home to innovative manufacturers, wineries and a hospital, and it’s also one of the top small-town tourism destinations in the state, according to the website of the county seat of Fredericksburg. Not bad for a county with fewer than 25,000 residents. The percentage of high-income households isn’t exceptionally high but, at 33 percent, the level of income growth over five years is quite strong. And the county’s 13 patents is decent considering its size.

6. Fort Bend

  • High income percentage: 20.3%
  • Income growth: 22%
  • Patents: 867

By far the largest county in our top 10 with more than 565,000 residents, Fort Bend also has the largest concentration of high-income folks of any of the counties we reviewed, with more than one in five households making over $150,00 a year. The county, part of the Greater Houston area, won 867 patents in 2011, putting it fourth among the places we considered. The largest employers in the county include engineering and construction firm Fluor Corp. and energy exploration company Schlumberger Technology Corp., which are both in Sugar Land, the county’s largest city.

7. Hartley

  • High income percentage: 9.7%
  • Income growth: 60.9%
  • Patents: 0

In contrast to Fort Bend, Hartley is the smallest county on our list, with fewer than 6,000 residents. Located in the far northern part of the state near New Mexico, Hartley has gotten a boost from a Hilmar Cheese production facility, which has brought new economic activity to Hartley’s largest community, according to the Dalhart Chamber of Commerce. The percentage of high-income households is nearly 10 percent, and per-person income grew at a tremendous 61 percent between 2006 and 2011.

8. Ector

  • High income percentage: 6.5%
  • Income growth: 30.8%
  • Patents: 16

Bordering our number one county, Midland, Ector County includes most of the city of Odessa and has more than 135,000 residents. Like Midland, Ector has been propelled into the ranks of the fastest-growing U.S. cities by the fracking boom. Income grew more than 30 percent between 2006 and 2011. As a Bloomberg story notes, the new jobs here aren’t just in the energy industry but in related fields like trucking. Still, there are downsides, like rapidly rising housing costs. Not everyone is making a fortune here though - 6.5 percent of households make $150,000 a year or more, barely above average for the counties we considered.

9. Comal

  • High income percentage: 12.5%
  • Income growth: 22.5%
  • Patents: 151

Like Gillespie, Comal County is close to both San Antonio and Austin. It’s four times as large as Gillespie, though, with 106,000 people, many of them residents of the county seat, New Braunfels. More than 12 percent of households in the county make high incomes, and it scores well for innovation with 151 patents granted in 2011.

10. Rockwall

  • High income percentage: 16.4%
  • Income growth: 22.9%
  • Patents: 27

This Dallas suburb ranks fourth among the counties we considered when it comes to the concentration of high-income households, with more than 16 percent earning $150,000 a year or more. Incomes in general grew almost 23 percent between 2006 and 2011. In addition, residents do not necessarily have to go to the big city to get jobs, as this area has its own technology park featuring aerospace, defense and manufacturing firms. In addition, a mixed-use project including Class A office space is in the works, according to the Rockwall Economic Development Corporation.

Of course, no matter how strong the wealth-making possibilities are in a county, it will not be a fit for every person trying to make their fortune. That may be especially true in some smaller communities, where fast growth and big wealth is sometimes tied to a single industry. In towns where the fracking industry has exploded, some people are already bracing for a bust like the ones that have followed previous oil booms. Still, these kinds of dynamic communities surely offer economic and learning opportunities for tomorrow’s tycoons.

For some tips on how to make the most of your finances while working toward the big time, check out CreditDonkey’s guide to credit cards for business.

Sources used in this study:

  • U.S. Census, American Communities Survey, 5 year estimates, 2011
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis, Local and Regional Data

Livia Gershon is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Livia Gershon at

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