Amarillo is the fourteenth most populous city in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census (105,486 in Potter County, and 85,209 in Randall). The Amarillo metropolitan area has an estimated population of 236,113 in four counties. Amarillo, originally named Oneida, is situated in the Llano Estacado region.
The availability of the railroad and freight service provided by the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad contributed to the city's growth as a cattle marketing Center in the late 19th century. Amarillo is the regional economic center for the Texas Panhandle, and is economically important to Eastern New Mexico and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The city was once the self-proclaimed "Helium Capital of the World" for having one of the country's most productive helium fields.
The city is also known as "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (as the city takes its name from the Spanish word for yellow), and most recently "Rotor City, USA" for its V-22 Osprey hybrid aircraft assembly plant. Amarillo operates one of the largest meat packing areas in the United States. Pantex, the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the country, is also a major employer. The attractions Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan Steak Ranch are located adjacent to Interstate 40. U.S. Highway 66 also passed through the city.
Amarillo is considered the regional economic center for the Texas Panhandle as well as Eastern New Mexico and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The meat packing industry is a major employer in Amarillo; about one-quarter of the United States' beef supply is processed in the area. The city is also the location of headquarters for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. Petroleum extraction is also a major industry.
The helium industry has decreased in significance since the federal government privatized local operations in the late 1990s. Bell Helicopter Textron opened a helicopter assembly plant near the city's international airport in 1999. The city's largest employer in 2005 is Tyson Foods, with 3,700 employees. The Amarillo Independent School District is next with 3,659 employees followed by BWXT Pantex, Baptist St. Anthony’s Health Care System, City of Amarillo, Northwest Texas Healthcare System, Amarillo College, and United Supermarkets. Other major employers include Bell Helicopter Textron, Owens-Corning, and ASARCO.
According to the 2000 United States Census, 20.5% of all adults over the age of 25 in Amarillo have obtained a bachelor's degree, as compared to a national average of 24.4% of adults over 25, and 79.3% of Amarillo residents over the age of 25 have earned a high school diploma, as compared to the national average of 80.4%. The higher education institutions in the city are Amarillo College, a two-year community college with over 10,000 students; Wayland Baptist University, a private university based in Plainview, has a branch campus in Amarillo; Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Amarillo School of Pharmacy, and Texas Tech University at Amarillo, a branch campus of Texas Tech University that offers selected master's degree programs. West Texas A&M University, a regional university headquartered in nearby Canyon, has a satellite campus in the Chase Tower in downtown Amarillo.
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is a public airport located 10 miles (16 km) east of the central business district of Amarillo, north of Interstate 40. A portion of the former Amarillo Air Force Base was converted to civilian use and became part of the airport. The airport was named after NASA astronaut Rick Husband, an Amarillo native and commander of the final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-107, which disintegrated on re-entry, killing Husband and his crewmates. The airport is served by several major air carriers with non-stop service to Dallas, Houston, Denver, and Las Vegas.
Local transit services in the city have been available since 1925 and have been provided through the City of Amarillo's Amarillo City Transit (ACT) department since 1966; before that time the system was privately owned. ACT operates bus services that include fixed route transit and demand response paratransit which are designed for people with disabilities. The ACT transports approximately 350,000 passengers per year on the fixed route and 30,000 paratransit passengers, but it is a declining ridership. ACT has no plans to scale back any of their transit routes or services.
Amarillo has no passenger rail service but remains an important part of the rail freight system. The BNSF Railway complex in Amarillo continues to serve a heavy daily traffic load, approximately 100-110 trains per day. The Union Pacific Railroad also sends substantial shipments to or through Amarillo. In addition to intermodal and general goods, a big portion of rail shipments involve grains and coal. There have been various proposals over the years to add passenger service. One, the Caprock Chief, would have seen daily service as part of a Fort Worth, Texas-Denver, Colorado service, but it failed to gain traction.