Where the Middle Class Thrives

By Steve Hargreaves, CNN Money

Gillespie County, Texas

Population: 25,114
Median household Income: $53,166
Unemployment rate: 3.4%

A little over an hour’s drive north of San Antonio and west of Austin, Fredericksburg is the only sizable town in the county — and it’s making quite a name for itself on the tourism circuit.

Over 1.5 million visitors descended on the town of 10,000 last year, drawn to its beautiful countryside and burgeoning wine, food and arts scenes. It’s also become a bit of a retirement destination.

All the out-of-towners give some residents pause. “There’s a lot of boutique jewelry stores and trendy clothing, and your middle-class people can’t afford that,” said Fredericksburg native Evelyn Weinheimer.

But the influx of visitors is providing opportunities for people in town to start businesses, especially young people, said Tim Lehmberg, head of the local economic development commission.

It’s not just tourism. The gourmet dining has prompted a mini-boom in specialty food makers churning out products like sauces and smoked meats. And staying true to its German roots, there’s at least a half dozen advanced manufacturing shops in town, most making parts for the health care or aviation industries.

Excerpt from Where the Middle Class Thrives – CNN Money; Steve Hargreaves, 2/20/14