Coolidge beat QC in percentage growth last year

Queen Creek and Maricopa grew faster in the past year measured than any other community in Arizona, U.S. Census Bureau data released last Thursday showed – but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The bureau’s new figures also put Queen Creek and Maricopa among the top 15 nationwide for population increases between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022.

But the agency, in crafting its rankings, only ranks what it considers “large cities” – meaning those with 50,000 or more residents.

And a deeper dive finds that Coolidge, fueled by new factories and economic development, outpaces both Queen Creek and Maricopa with a one-year population change equaling 11.9%.

The new report also finds that about one out of four Arizona communities actually lost population. The biggest loser was Douglas, which shed 4.6% of its residents, dropping the city below 16,000 – essentially back to where it was at the turn of the century.

Much of what is in the new national report is no surprise. The fastest growing communities tend to be on the edge of existing cities.

And most of them are in the south or west and, like Queen Creek and Maricopa, on the edges of major urban areas.

Georgetown, Texas, is considered by the Census Bureau as having grown the fastest by percentage in the past year at 14.4%. It is about an hour outside of Austin.

No. 2 Santa Cruz, California, at 12.5%, benefits from its location south of San Jose and the Silicon Valley.

Much of the same proves true in Arizona.

Decades ago it was communities like Glendale and Mesa that grew by leaps and bounds. These communities rapidly filled up.

At the same time, additional freeways were built, widened and extended. And that promoted living farther out as it cut down commute times for those who need to travel into the main city for work to acceptable levels.

Queen Creek is a key example.

Not only did the state – much of it with county tax dollars – complete the Loop 202 freeway into the Southeast Valley, it now is building and extending what had been a one-mile stretch of State Route 24 from the 202 into Pinal County.

And that’s just the beginning: The new budget signed earlier this month by Gov. Katie Hobbs gives Queen Creek $87.5 million to further extend SR 24, including a traffic interchange at Ironwood Road.

Even with the freeway still not complete, Queen Creek managed to add another 4,416 residents in the year ending July 1, 2022. And that computes out to a nearly 6.7% increase.

Other communities in and beyond the fringes of the Phoenix Metro area also racked up strong year-over-year population increases including 4.6% for Casa Grande, 3.8% for Goodyear and nearly as much for adjacent Buckeye.

Wickenburg and Surprise also managed growth in excess of 3 percent.

Coolidge also qualifies as being on the fringes of Phoenix. But its growth has been aided by lots of new economic development.

And there’s more to come.

Last November, for example, Procter & Gamble announced a $500 million investment in a manufacturing facility. And the community has available

land to accommodate both industry and residential.

The pattern of growth on the edges of urban areas repeats itself around Tucson, though to a much lesser extent.

Marana added another 1,290 residents in the one-year period, bringing population up to 55,962 according to the Census Bureau. But that was enough to post a growth rate of something less than 2.4%.

After Douglas, the other community posting the largest population loss was Florence. But that is highly affected by the number of inmates at state-run facilities there which has been declining over the past few years.