The History of Sugar Land Texas
By Debi Wexler , Friday, September 28, 2012
It is no secret that the last few years of economic downturn have played out quite differently in Texas than in the rest of the country. In cities like Sugarland, Texas, construction is booming, home prices are rising, and unemployment remains low. The city has grown by 158% over the past decade, and today has a population of 85,000, with a median family income of $113,000. But life in Sugarland wasn’t always quite so sweet. The name of the city comes from the nearby headquarters of Imperial Sugar—the city was once a major sugar processing center. The history of Sugarland, Texas traces all the way back to Stephen A. Austin, the 19thcentury “father of Texas,” who purchased the land from Mexico. Similar to the history of Fort Bend County in general, Sugarland did not see major economic growth outside of the agricultural industry until the 20th century. Texas history is full of stories like the Sugarland tale—stories of small farm towns that suddenly grew into some of the best places to live in the United States.
Over the course of the 20th century, the city of Sugarland grew from a sleepy plantation town to a thriving, growing urban center in the Houston metro area. From 1910 until 1959, Imperial Sugar practically owned the town. The sugar company owned the employee housing, funded the schools and hospital, and even owned many local businesses. But in the latter half of the 20th century, new master-planned communities and subdivisions began to rise, as air conditioning and affordable cars made Sugarland an attractive suburb of Houston. In this way, Sugarland’s history mirrors Texas history in general: a rather abrupt rise from rural, agricultural roots to affluence and regional prominence. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, more planned communities grew up around Sugarland—following them, many international corporations established headquarters there, and an extensive commercial market grew as well. Highway 59 and Route 6 became major shopping corridors, attracting the largely educated, mostly white collar workers from the nearby energy companies and other corporations centered in Sugarland. Although many Sugarlanders still commuted to Houston, the city itself became an attractive location to work, shop, live and sleep.
In the 2000’s, the city of Sugarland became the second most-important city in the Houston metro area. In recent years, the accolades have only piled up more. In 2006, CNN and Money magazine rated Sugarland third on their lists of the 100 best places to live in the United States. IN 2010, Sugarland was ranked 12th safest city in the country. And in 2008, Forbes rates the city as one of the country’s best suburbs for “living well.” Today, the combination of the relatively affordable cost of housing and living in Texas in general, combined with the thriving economy of Sugarland in particular, has resulted in a quality of life unique to this area. A visit to the Sugarland Town Square mall, where new businesses are opening and thriving every month, illustrates just how drastic the difference is between Sugarland and so many other small American cities.
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