Round Rock is a city in the U.S. state of Texas, located in Williamson County, which is a part of the Greater Austin, Texas metropolitan area. The 2013 census estimate places the population at 109,821.
The city straddles both sides of the Balcones Escarpment, a fault line in which the areas roughly east of IH-35 are flat and characterized by having black, fertile soils of the Blackland Prairie, and the west side of the Escarpment which consists mostly of hilly, karst-like terrain with little topsoil and higher elevations and which is part of the Texas Hill Country. Located about 20 miles (32 km) north of downtown Austin, Round Rock shares a common border with Austin at Texas State Highway 45.
In August 2008, Money magazine named Round Rock as the seventh-best American small city in which to live. Round Rock was the only Texas city to make the Top 10. In a CNN article dated July 1, 2009, Round Rock was listed as the second fastest-growing city in the country, with a population growth of 8.2% in the preceding year.
Round Rock has a strong public education system. According to the 2008 ratings from the Texas Education Agency, the Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) ranks among the best in the state. Of 42 schools within it, twelve were rated exemplary and eleven are recognized.
Round Rock is perhaps best known as the international headquarters of Dell, which employs approximately 16,000 people at its Round Rock facilities. The presence of Dell along with other major employers, a strong economic development program, favorable tax rates, and major retailers such as IKEA and a Premium Outlet Mall, and the mixed use La Frontera center, have changed Round Rock from a sleepy bedroom community into its own self-contained “super suburb.”
Round Rock is located 17 miles (27 km) north of downtown Austin, and 10 miles (16 km) south of Georgetown. Its elevation is 709 ft (216 m).According to the US Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.3 square miles (68.0 km2), of which 26.1 square miles (67.7 km2) are land and 0.1 square mile (0.3 km2) (0.50%) is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by generally hot, humid summers and mild, cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Round Rock has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated “Cfa” on climate maps.
Business and Economic Development
The City of Round Rock has maintained a high quality of life while becoming a major center for economic growth in Central Texas, with industry clusters in clean energy, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and computer/software development.
Round Rock has more than twenty major employers including: Toppan Photomasks, Sears Customer Care, IKEA, Round Rock Premium Outlets, KoMiCo Technology Inc., Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp (TGSLC), Cintas, Dresser, Hospira, and TECO-Westinghouse, Cerilliant Corporation, Emerson Process Management, and Dell.
Dell corporate headquarters
Dell is a multinationalcomputer and information technology corporation based in Round Rock, which develops, sells and supports computers and related products and services. The company employs about 11,500 people in the Round Rock facilities  and about 96,000 people worldwide. Dell was originally based in Austin after its initial formation in 1984 as PC’s Limited by UT college student Michael Dell. With the need for significant space as it expanded, the City of Round Rock in 1996 offered Dell a “Chapter 380” agreement by offering to split sales tax revenue from in-state
sales 50/50 between Dell and the City. A “Chapter 380” agreement is named for the chapter in Vernon’s Statutes that permits sales tax revenue sharing for economic development purposes. It was the first time such an agreement had been used in Central Texas and among the very first in the state. As of 1999, approximately half of the general fund of the City of Round Rock originates from sales taxes generated from the Dell headquarters. Today the company is one of the largest technology companies in the world, listed as number 38 on the Fortune 500 (2010). Fortune also lists Dell as the #5 most admired company in its industry. As part of its clean energy program, in 2008 Dell switched the power sources of the Round Rock headquarters to more environmentally friendly ones, with 60% of the total power coming from TXU Energy wind farms and 40% coming from the Austin Community Landfill gas-to-energy plant operated by Waste Management, Inc
Commercial and Retail
Round Rock’s largest commercial and office business center is La Frontera, located at the intersection of Loop 1, SH 45 and IH-35. La Frontera combines multi-tenant offices, company headquarters facilities, 1,000,000 square feet (90,000 m2) of retail, and several apartment complexes and other smaller retail and housing centers. The project also includes Williamson County’s largest hotel, the Austin North Marriott, which provides space for large conferences, meetings and banquets – a first for the county and an important component of Round Rock’s economic efforts. The center is also home to the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TGSLC), and Emerson Process Management. The retail portion is the second largest outdoor commercial project in the Austin – Round Rock Metro area. La Frontera was developed by Bill Smalling and Don Martin, with Fort Worth financier Ed Bass as financial partner.
In 2006, a retail-only hub opened in Round Rock at the corner of Interstate 35 and Highway 1431 (now renamed “University Boulevard”): The major retailer center includes the Simon Property Group‘s Premium Outlets Mall, across the street is IKEA as well as numerous other retail stores and restaurants. The project was developed by Simon Property Group, with other portions by Barshop & Oles of Austin.
Round Rock has a wide array of hospitals and extensive health care services. Many of these facilities serve not only Round Rock, but the greater Williamson county area, as well as North Austin.
- Saint David’s Round Rock Medical Center was the first major hospital in Round Rock, opening its doors as Round Rock Hospital in 1984. It is a for-profit hospital with a Level II Trauma center as part of the extensive St. David’s system.
- Scott & White Healthcare in Temple opened a satellite hospital in Round Rock in 2007. It is located on University Boulevard. The facility has full hospital services, but also transfers some patients to its primary Temple campus. Scott & White is a non-profit collaborative health care system based in Temple. Scott & White Healthcare – Round Rock serves residents of Williamson and North Travis counties, including the Austin/Round Rock metropolitan area. Facilities include Scott & White Hospital – Round Rock, Scott & White Hospital – Taylor and 15 additional primary care and specialty clinic locations in Burnet, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Hutto, Leander, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Taylor.
Seton Medical Center Williamson is the newest hospital in Round Rock, opening in 2009 on University Boulevard. It is adjacent to the Texas State University campus, the new Austin Community College (ACC) campus opened in fall 2010, as well as the Round Rock
- campus of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. The facility is currently building out its planned expansion space ahead of schedule. Seton Medical Center Williamson is a Level II Trauma center. Seton is a “non-profit” corporation and part of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and Ascension Health.
- Another entrant into the health-care field in Round Rock opened in December 2009 is the Texas A&M Health Science Center. The 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) building is the first of up to seventeen more additional buildings expected to be built in coming years. The facility also houses administrative offices, classrooms and a 33,000 square feet (3,100 m2) Lone Star Circle of Care clinic, where health care students will train.
- In 2010, the latest component of higher education is the School of Nursing at Texas State University, housed within the University’s College of Health Professions. Other programs that are offered by the college are health information management, health services research, and physical therapy.
- Lone Star Circle of Care (LSCC) is a grant-funded organization dedicated to serving the health needs of the uninsured and underinsured in Williamson County and nearby areas. They have grown from one clinic in Georgetown in January 2001 to today having eighteen community clinics serving Central Texas. They provided 130,000 patient visits for medically underserved adults and children in 2009. Grants come from the Scott & White Foundation, Seton Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Georgetown Health Foundation, St. David’s Foundation, and many others. In May 2010 the Seton family of hospitals awarded LSCC a $3 million grant for pediatric care. And the new A&M Health Science Center is partnering with the Lone Star Circle of Care for a 32,000 square-foot clinical hub which opened in A&M’s existing building in December 2009.
Round Rock Independent School District, a Texas Education Agency Recognized School District, is located in southern Williamson County and northwest Travis County and includes all the City of Round Rock and portions of the City of Austin and the City of Cedar Park. The area covers 110 square miles (280 km2) encompassing high-tech manufacturing and urban retail centers, suburban neighborhoods, and farm and ranch land. “Roughly 45,000 students attend the district’s five high schools, ten middle schools, 32 elementary schools, and two alternative learning centers. During the past five years, the number of students has increased by nearly 15%, and enrollment continues to grow by more than 1,200 students per year.”
In August 2010, the district opened its fifth high school (Cedar Ridge High School), a ninth grade center reverted to a middle school and the district’s 31st elementary school opened in the Stone Oak subdivision. “The average student-teacher ratio for RRISD is 16. The annual dropout rate for students in grades 7 – 12 is 1.1% and more than 77% of the district’s graduating seniors take the SAT and ACT college entrance exams, scoring well above state and national averages.” The property tax rates are significantly higher than the national average, and the schools’ performance reflects the tax dollars invested.
In the annual report released July 30, 2010 the Round Rock Independent School District received the highest possible rating (“Exemplary”) for twenty-five of its schools, the highest number so rated in any of the suburban districts in Central Texas. These schools are: Westwood High School, Canyon
Vista, Walsh, and Cedar Valley middle schools. Spicewood, Forest North, Caraway, Brushy Creek, Laurel Mountain, Fern Bluff, Canyon Creek, Great Oaks, Teravista, Cactus Ranch, Sommer, Deep Wood, Robertson, Pond Springs, Live Oak, Old Town, Jollyville, Forest Creek, Blackland Prairie, Union Hill and Gattis elementary schools. In 2010 the school district as a whole was rated “academically recognized” a significant step above 2009 when the school district was rated “academically acceptable” by the Texas Education Agency.
Round Rock also has a number of higher education opportunities. In 1990, the city, under the leadership of then-City Manager Bob Bennett, planning director Joe Vining, and local citizen Mike Swayze envisioned and oversaw creation of the Texas State University Round Rock Campus (a/k/a Round Rock Higher Education Center – “RRHEC”). The concept was envisioned as a way to lure colleges and universities to jointly provide education, training and degree opportunities on part-time and full-time biases. The RRC used various empty facilities around town and many of the initial training programs were targeted to help educate students for work at local companies, such as Dell, which had specialized needs. In 2008, an educational campus and the first RRC building—the Avery Building—was opened through the combined efforts of Texas State University, Austin Community College, and Temple College in order to provide a broader range of educational opportunities, specialized training, and varying degree programs including post graduate degrees. The campus is in the heart of the emerging Avery Center development, which houses Seton Williamson, the A&M Health Science Center and other medical campuses. By the end of 2009, 1,700 students were enrolled in the programs. Texas State University has taken on the lead role in this effort and 100 acres (40 ha) of land for the facility and additional buildings was donated by the Avery family of Round Rock, whose family were early settlers on the land surrounding the RRHEC. Construction on the second Texas State campus building is underway and construction is nearly complete on this additional classroom building.(See also Texas State University Round Rock Campus)
The city is also home to the new Texas A&M Health Science Center Round Rock which opened its doors December 2010. The campus is designed to eventually accommodate as many as 17 additional buildings over time as monies are appropriated each biennium by the Texas Legislature.
In August 2010, Austin Community College‘s largest campus to date opened adjacent to the Texas State University center. ACC is currently constructing five additional buildings with a total of 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) to accommodate up to 5,000 students in its first phase. All three campuses are adjacent to each other within the burgeoning Avery Farms development.
The newest component of higher education is the School of Nursing at Texas State University, housed within the University’s College of Health Professions. Other programs that are offered by the college are health information management, health services research, and physical therapy.
Ryan, son of Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. As of August 2010, Nolan Ryan is also the new owner of the major league Texas Rangers ball club. Home games for the Round Rock Express are played at the Dell Diamond, a facility that is owned by the City of Round Rock and leased long-term to RSR Sports who run and maintain the facility.
Round Rock opened a free public skate park in 2007 behind the Clay Madsen Recreation Center on Gattis School Road.
Round Rock is the self-proclaimed “Sports Capital of Texas.” The City’s Old Settlers Park offers a professionally designed disc golf course, cricket, twenty-field baseball complex, five-field softball complex, and seven soccer facilities in addition to the Rockin’ River Family Aquatic Center.
The Round Rock independent school district high schools are known for their accomplishments in sports as well, specifically Stony Point high school for being the state semi-finalists 3 years in a row and the second most winning 5A program in the state of Texas.
Round Rock and Williamson County has been the site of human habitation since at least 9,200 BC. The earliest known inhabitants of the area lived during the late Pleistocene (Ice Age), and are linked to the Clovis culture around 9,200 BC (11,200 years old) based on evidence found at the much-studied “Gault Site,” midway between Georgetown and Fort Hood. One of the most important discoveries in recent times is that of the ancient skeletal remains dubbed “The Leanderthal Lady” because of its age and proximity to Leander, Texas. The site is 4 miles (6 km) west of Round Rock and was discovered by accident by Texas Department of Transportation workers while drilling core samples for a new highway. The site has been extensively studied for many years and samples carbon date to this particular Pleistocene period at approximately 10,500 years ago (8,500 BC). Prehistoric and Archaic Period “open occupation” campsites are also found throughout the county along streams and other water sources including Brushy Creek in Round Rock and the San Gabriel River in Georgetown, ten miles (16 km) north. These archeology dig sites show a much greater volume of evidence of Archaic Period inhabitants based on relics and flint tools recovered from burned rock middens. The earliest known “historical” Native American occupants, the Tonkawa, were a flint-working, hunting people who followed the buffalo on foot and periodically set fire to the prairie to aid them in their hunts. During the 18th century they made the transition to a horse culture and used firearms to a limited extent. There also appear to have been small numbers of Kiowa, Yojuane, Tawakoni, and Mayeye Native-Americans living in the county at the time of the earliest Anglo settlements. After they were crowded out by white settlement, the Comanches continued to raid settlements in the county until the 1860s. In the late 19th century, Native Americans were being pushed out of Central Texas.
As the area developed into a rural Anglo community, some of the modern paved roads actually followed the original Native-American pathways. One famous immigration route passed through Round Rock and is called the “Double File Trail” because the path was wide enough for two horsemen to ride side-by-side. It is part of a longer trail from north Texas that crossed the San Gabriel River in Georgetown, Brushy Creek in Round Rock, and the Colorado River in Austin. An
elementary school in the Round Rock school district is named for the trail, Double File Trail Elementary School.
19th Century History
In 1851, a small community was formed on the banks of Brushy Creek, near a large round and anvil-shaped rock located in the middle of the creek. This round rock marked a convenient low-water crossing for wagons, horses, and cattle. The first postmaster called the community “Brushy,” and the creek was called “Brushy Creek”. But in 1854, at the suggestion of the postmaster, the small settlement was renamed Round Rock in honor of this now famous rock. After the Civil War, Jesse Chisholm began moving cattle from South Texas through Round Rock on the way to Abilene, Kansas. The route he established, which crossed Brushy Creek at the round rock, became known as the Chisholm Trail. Most of the old buildings, including the old Saint Charles Hotel, have been preserved. This historic area is now called “Old Town.”
The Sam Bass Era of the 1870’s
Downtown Round Rock was the site of an historic gunfight and subsequent capture (and death) of the 19th-century American train robber Sam Bass, by the Texas Ranger Division on July 19, 1878. The Rangers followed Bass and his gang after they robbed the Fort Worth-to-Cleburn train. Bass was tracked to Round Rock and as he attempted to flee, Bass was shot and killed in a gun battle by Ranger George Herold and Ranger sergeant Richard Ware. Near Sgt. Ware, was Soapy Smith, a noted con man, and his cousin Edwin, who witnessed Ware’s shot. Soapy exclaimed, “I think you got him.” The event is known locally as the “Sam Bass Shootout.” This shootout is re-created each year at the July 4 ‘Frontier Days’ Celebration in Old Settlers Park. Bass is buried in Round Rock Cemetery, located northwest of “Old Town” on Sam Bass Road. His original headstone can be found on display at the Round Rock Public Library.