Collin County is growing. Fast.
We currently have an estimated 1,095,580 residents, and the number could grow as high as 2.4 million residents by 2050, according to the Texas Demographic Center. Since 2010, Collin County has seen a growth rate of 39.10%.
This data is a testament not only to the vibrancy of Collin County but to the attraction of North Texas overall as a place for businesses and residents to live, grow and thrive.
Infrastructure experts have been preparing for the future for some time, and now more than ever, teamwork and creativity is needed to make sure water, energy and mobility can keep up with the area’s rapid growth. The strength and sustainability of our resources is also crucial to address.
On October 21, Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) hosted a virtual roundtable summit in partnership with Local Profile. The panel was titled “Water, Energy, Mobility: Keeping Up with Infrastructure Needs of Exponentially Growing Collin County. The roundtable included these guests:
- Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of ERCOT. Jones joined ERCOT in May 2021. As interim president and CEO, he has over 30 years of experience in the competitive electric industry including leading two of the nation’s largest electricity grids, establishing one of the first competitive electricity markets in the United States and leading the development and expansion of electric generation facilities in Texas.
- Jenna Covington, executive director and general manager of the North Texas Municipal Water District. Covington has served in her role with the North Texas Municipal Water District since May 2021. She’s responsible for leading all aspects of the NTMWD operations management planning and services. NTMWD provides drinking water treatment and delivery, wastewater collection and treatment and solid waste services for a population of 1.8 million people in one of the fastest growing regions in the country.
- Michael Morris, transportation director of North Central Texas Council of Governments. Morris has been on staff in the transportation department of the North Central Texas Council of Governments since 1979. The metropolitan planning organization serves the region by developing transportation plans, programs and projects that address the transportation needs of the fourth-largest region in the country.
- Vince Sims, summit moderator and anchor/reporter for NBC 5. Sims joined NBC 5 in July 2019. Most recently, Vince featured CCBA’s Equity Summit and its “Collin County Unites” social justice plan in his “Conversations: Call for Change” segment.
Is Collin County’s infrastructure ready?
Here are the highlights of the infrastructure roundtable:
Is ERCOT going to be ready for the next big weather crisis?
In light of Winter Storm Uri, ERCOT has been trying to build a reliability plan to address the growing population and better prepare for the next big weather event Texas could face. Jones, aid the ERCOT is focused on these three areas:
Weatherization. “We have to improve weatherization. Weatherization requires us to have a new set of rules for how generators will perform. The new rules are being done in two phases, a phase this year and a phase next year, that the Public Utility Commission has already put into place.”
Inspections. “We will be out in 300 facilities inspecting, making sure they meet the standards set before them. Of those 300 facilities, that will comprise roughly 85% of the megawatts that were lost during the storm. We’ll finish that work by the end of December.”
Distribution. “We need to make sure our distribution providers can adequately roll our customers. Rolling simply means that we try to turn a customer off for 30 minutes but bring them back after 30 minutes, so homes don’t really cooldown. That allows us to shut off some power for a short period of time. Our distribution companies in our system weren’t able to roll customers because we had simply asked for so much. Improving that system will do great for us.”
Are we preparing fast enough for today’s growth?
DFW has a new reservoir to help meet the ever-growing demand for freshwater. Construction on Bois d’Arc Lake is wrapping up in Fannin County, about an hour’s drive northeast of McKinney. Water from Bois d’Arc Lake could reach homes in 2022.
“For the next several decades, this is going to provide many, many more benefits that go beyond water supply,” Covington said. “It will cover 16,500 acres and will provide approximately 113 million gallons a day of water supply to the North Texas area.”
The House of Representatives just passed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. How will this bill impact water and transportation in Collin County?
The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is the largest infusion of federal investment into infrastructure projects in more than a decade.
“An example of how we’ve used these funds previously: we’re constructing a new water resource recovery facility just east of McKinney,” Covington said. “We’ll be taking wastewater from a number of Collin County communities, cleaning that, and then discharging it back into our communities’ waterways.”
The NTMWD received low-interest loans through the Texas Water Development Board to be paid back over a 30-year period.
As far as transportation, Morris calls the infrastructure bill a “gamechanger.”
“It’s going to rethink what transportation really is,” he said. “Does the Internet, fiberglass fiber and telecommunications actually become a transportation mode? The bill will fuel traditional infrastructure, but we’ll also think outside the box and collaborate between the public sector and the private sector. You’ve got to take risks in the public sector. You’ve got to create pilot programs.”
Morris also shared some of the transportation developments happening in Collin County.
“[There are] five autonomous truck companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, who today are moving goods by truck where the truck is driving itself,” Morris said. “We also are building the first autonomous parking lot, and Walgreens is also testing a new service: flying packages of medicine by drone from the pharmacy to residents in Little Elm and Frisco.”
The takeaway? Collaboration is key.
CCBA emphasizes the power of collaboration and synergies between different groups in solving region-wide issues. The speakers for this roundtable, CCBA’s fourth roundtable with Local Profile this year, also discussed how their biggest partnerships impacted our region.
Watch the whole roundtable here to hear more!