Corpus Christi is the largest community in the 12-county region, and tourism provides the city with a $1 billion annual economic impact. Beaches spanning 16 miles, with light tan sand and turquoise water, attract locals and vacationers alike who indulge in everything from deep-sea fishing and sailing to kayaking and windsurfing.
“In Corpus Christi, we have a laid-back, seaside vacation community with a nice climate and no traffic jams,” says Foster Edwards, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce. “Our city attracts 8 million visitors a year."
“We have several arts venues and a vibrant live music scene, plus nature-related attractions like the South Texas Botanical Gardens, along with the Texas State Aquarium that welcomes 500,000 visitors a year," Edwards continues.
Thanks to a growing tourism industry, a thriving oil and gas industry, and the presence of two military installations, the city's economy is booming. Housing options in Corpus Christi are expanding because of demand, says Edwards, who recently presided at the grand opening of Tuscana Bay luxury apartments and lofts, one of the newest residential complexes.
“Housing here is more affordable than in the big Texas cities of Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, yet Corpus Christi is still large enough to have great restaurants and amenities,” he says. “This is a great place for tourists, as well as those of us who live here.”
Other Coastal Bend communities with growing attractions include Padre Island off the coast of Corpus Christi, which will soon debut its own Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort – a water park franchise ranked as the state's No. 1 Kid-Friendly Attraction by Texas Family Magazine. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the Padre Island National Seashore also remains a favorite warm-weather destination for millions of vacationers each year.
Rockport and Fulton enjoy a combined 1 million visitors annually, who come for the beaches, outdoor recreation and attractions that include an aquarium and a Bay Education Center. The city of Rockport has long been known as an artist-friendly community, a reputation revisited each Fourth of July weekend during the Rockport Art Festival – one of the largest juried art festivals in the nation. One of the region’s most popular destinations is Fulton's Goose Island State Park, which draws visitors for its 114 RV parks and campsites, as well as its 1,600-foot-long lighted fishing pier.
In Port Aransas, residents and tourists enjoy upscale shopping, world-class nature and water activities, and festivals, such as the annual Texas SandFest and Whooping Crane Festival. Situated on two bays, Portland offers opportunities for swimming, fishing, boating, sailing and kite surfing. And shoppers will soon have access to stores like Nike, Polo, Banana Republic and Saks Fifth Avenue when construction is completed on Robstown's $180 million The Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay retail mall, expected to open by spring 2015.
Alice Enhances Amenities
The city of Alice is also adding to its amenities with construction of a $27 million multiuse center, complete with a natatorium, leisure pool, outdoor amphitheater, hotel and conference center.
“We enjoy one of the lowest tax rates in Texas – 24 cents per $100 of assessed property – which enables us to bring in many business prospects,” says Larry Martinez, mayor of Alice. “We are located within easy access of the Eagle Ford Shale oil corridor, so a lot of developers are interested in us.”
Martinez says market studies show that about 7,000 new jobs will be created in Alice and Jim Wells County over the next five to seven years, and about 1,000 homes will be constructed during that time.
“We are also working on a regional plan with communities like San Diego and Freer to get distribution centers established in our cities along the State Highway 44/U.S. Highway 59 corridor, so more goods can be targeted to Laredo and Port Corpus Christi,” Martinez says. “We like to say that Alice offers a small-town environment with big ideas and a big-city mentality. That seems to be the attitude of all cities and counties here in the Coastal Bend Region of South Texas.”
Learn more about Coastal Bend's attractions and culture scene.