In Central Texas, Small Towns Are Home to Big-Time Ambitions and Growth

David Burn
5 min readFeb 23, 2024

We live in Bastrop, Texas, 30 miles southeast of Austin.

New construction, Bastrop, TX

As residents of Central Texas, we have a front-row seat to off-the-charts growth. Austin’s skyline has been radically remade in just a handful of years. Small towns on the outskirts of the metro are turning into medium-sized towns. New industries are being borne, along with the systems and amenities to support them.

This sort of fast-paced change is hard to write about because it’s difficult to capture the magnitude in words. Perhaps, a few key facts will help.

Austin ranked first among the 50 largest U.S. metros based on net migration as a percent of total population in 2020 and continues to grow faster than any city in the country today.

Population growth from 2010–2020

Image from Austin Chamber

The Texas Triangle

Bastrop is an historic town on the Colorado River, strategically positioned inside the Texas Triangle. Bastrop — named for Baron de Bastrop, who helped open the door to American migration into Texas — is also part of the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Image from Bastrop Economic Development Corp.

The Triangle is home to 35 of Texas’s 254 counties, but it accounts for 68 percent of the state’s population and 88 percent of its 2010–20 growth. In many ways, the Texas Triangle is a state unto itself, culturally and economically.

The state’s major metros are exceptionally diverse in their demographic and industrial composition. Houston and Dallas rank as the first and third most socio-ethnically diverse cities in the United States, based on a WalletHub study.

Inside the Triangle, diversity thrives and an abundance mindset is the baseline. If you can dream it, you can fund it, and build it too. This is Texas.

American Semiconductors

It’s fascinating to see how the race to build the American semiconductor industry is happening here and now.

Since the $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act was first introduced in 2020, more than 50 new U.S. semiconductor projects have been announced totaling over $210 billion. More than $61 billion of that’s in Texas, with six projects expected to create more than 8,000 jobs.

One big project is happening up the street in Taylor, Texas. Taylor is 30 miles north of Bastrop and home of Samsung Austin Semiconductor’s new $17B manufacturing plant. Samsung’s investment in Taylor will give the town new life, and that energy will reach other nearby communities too — Elgin and Bastrop, in particular.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell estimates that 150 to 200 Samsung suppliers could eventually set up shop in the region and that “you’re going to see a massive influx incredibly quick.” We’re seeing it now in Bastrop, where LS Electric, a South Korean supplier to Samsung recently purchased an industrial building and began operations.

Lost Pines Found

We live on a dirt road outside of town. When I look out my home office window, I mostly see a forest of loblolly pines. This is prime habitat for deer, coyote, wild turkey, roadrunners, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and endangered Houston Toads. Cacti, Yucca, oaks, and native grasses thrive in the rocky soil.

Hilltop, Bastrop, Texas

When I adjust my focus, I start to see between and beyond the pines. What’s there to see?

German multinational energy company RWE will soon complete its Bastrop County battery storage and solar panel project. RWE joins a host of other companies moving to Bastrop County, and firms like Agilent, which are already here.

Some of the others new to the scene include Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink, and Boring Company. There’s also a Hollywood production studio currently under construction. Alton Butler, CEO and owner of Line 204, said the nearly 600-acre project is scheduled to finish in December 2024.

Butler plans to offer a “film-play-stay” concept. This will allow crews to come to the studios to work and then stay on-site with amenities like a wellness center, horseback riding, a workout facility, and a golf course.

There’s also a new Marriott under construction, a new Frost Bank about to open, a new Chuy’s coming, a new Chipotle, and P. Terry’s expanded to Bastrop last year.

My Turn

A question that I started to ask two-plus years ago when we moved here from Austin is, “What can we contribute to this community? Where do our passions and experience meet with marketplace needs?”

Some of my first thoughts were to open a coffee shop, a Mezcalería, a new community newspaper, an arts and culture ‘zine, and a community radio station. I explored all the ideas but didn’t run with them. I also did not plant my existing marketing services flag in this fertile ground.

As I consider it today, I remember that I can change my mind. I can entertain lots of good ideas and let most of them go without regret. I can also feel the gravity of one good idea and be pulled in that direction.

Here’s an idea: Breathe new life into Bonehook, the brand marketing agency I launched in 2010, and refocus on serving clients in the semiconductor industry.

It’s a strategic realignment that makes sense on a couple of levels. As the domestic semiconductor industry continues to grow, so do the communities and businesses where they do business.

Also, I started my ad agency career in high tech business-to-business in Salt Lake City and I enjoy taking dense technical matter and turning it into plain English that people can understand and act on.

I taught myself HTML in 1999 and started publishing my writing on the web. I also started a well-regarded advertising blog (2004), an agency content department (2006), and a brand marketing agency (2010). I’m pleased to report that all three are still open for business today.