As part of a program approved by the state legislature last year, Athens, Lufkin and Nacogdoches County have been declared the state’s first Texas Certified Retirement Communities, a designation intended to help areas that are short on economic growth market themselves to retirees.

The program — the brainchild of an East Texas lawmaker — is similar to other states’ efforts to lure retirees and their disposable income. A nearly identical program that was launched in Mississippi in 1994 stamped 21 cities as amenable to retirees, and Mississippi state officials say the state has since attracted more than 5,500 new retiree households.

Mark Fagan, a sociology professor with Jacksonville State University, says rural areas seeking economic growth are better off luring retirees and tourists than new plants. The median income in Nacogdoches County is almost $40,000, about $10,000 below the state average. East Texas officials say a retired couple packs an economic clout equal to 3.7 factory jobs.

Source: Associated Press