By Steve Knight The Herald-Zeitung | ​

Population figures for New Braunfels and Comal County jumped a significant 56.6% and 48.9%, respectively, over the last 10 years, according to 2020 census data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

New Braunfels population grew by 32,663 from the 2010 count of 57,740 to 90,403 in 2020. Comal County’s population grew by 53,029, from 108,472 in 2010 to 161,501 people.

The census, which represents where people lived as of April 1, 2020, provides data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to deliver daily services, products and support for the community. 

Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data.

State officials also use the once-a-decade results to realign congressional and state legislative districts, taking into account population shifts since the previous census.

Mayor Rusty Brockman said the numbers present a continuing challenge to city leaders to keep up with the fast pace of growth.

“I think we all need to continue to do what Mayor (Barron) Casteel and councils did over the last six or seven years, and that’s to include the community in the important decisions that affect the community,” Brockman said. “We’re going to continue involving the citizens. We’re going to continue having meetings and going out into the community, as well as in the districts and workshops here at city hall to plan. That’s one of the key pieces to how everyone works together.”

New Braunfels residents have approved multi-million dollar bond programs in 2013 and 2019, with another in the preliminary planning stages for 2023 to keep up with growth. New Braunfels Utilities plans to invest more than $688 million into 145 future infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Brockman added that he doesn’t see the growth stopping anytime soon.

“People want to live here because of the quality of life,” he said. “I think people like being part of a community that has such good environmental activities that bring a lot of outdoor recreation. Not only are they moving here for jobs but they’re moving here to retire and they’re moving here because they like the Hill Country.”

Jonathan Packer, president and CEO of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, said the 2020 results aren’t surprising.

“This confirms what a lot of us are seeing — that New Braunfels is an incredibly desirable place to live in and also a community that is very welcoming,” Packer said. “That’s reflected in these numbers. This reconciles with other things we’ve seen in the community, such as homes built, roads built and schools making capacity decisions."

The 2020 numbers cement New Braunfels’ status as one of the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the country. It’s the second consecutive census that has seen the city grow by more than 50%. Other Texas cities in that top 10 list were McKinney and Frisco near Dallas, as well as Conroe near Houston.

“We had a committee that worked very hard to get as much participation in the census as we could get,” said Michael Meek, who chaired the New Braunfels Complete Count Committee, which included several county and city representatives, New Braunfels Utilities, the McKenna Foundation, various volunteer organizations and the Ministerial Alliance. “That’s great news because the more accurate the count for New Braunfels and Comal County means the maximum amount of federal dollars to be returned here. From that standpoint, it’s good for health care, transportation needs and economic development.”

Guadalupe County, which includes a portion of the city of New Braunfels, also saw substantial growth. The population grew by 41,173 people to 172,706, up 31.3% from the 2010 count of 131,533.

The 2020 numbers put the state’s population at 29,145,505 — up from 25.1 million in 2010 — after gaining the most residents of any state in the last decade.

The Census Bureau said five of the 14 cities that grew by at least 100,000 people are located in Texas — Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

Since 2010, 44% of the state’s growth took place in its five largest counties — Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis. All ten of the state’s fastest-growing counties in the last decade were suburban.

Hays County experienced the most growth, doubling its population in the last decade.

Texas was also the big winner in gaining more political clout — the second-most populous state added two congressional seats, while Florida and North Carolina each gained one. Colorado, Montana and Oregon all added residents and gained a seat each. States losing seats included Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

With its gain of two seats, the state’s footprint in the Electoral College will grow to 40 votes.

Census data released in April showed that the U.S. population rose to 331,449,281 last year, a 7.4% increase over the previous decade that was the second-slowest ever. 

Experts say that paltry pace reflects the combination of an aging population, slowing immigration and the scars of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, which led many young adults to delay marriage and families.

The information was supposed to be released at the end of March but was pushed back to August to give bureau statisticians more time to crunch the numbers, which came in late because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The postponement sent states scrambling to change their redistricting deadlines.

The Texas Tribune and Associated Press contributed to this story.