Feds will keep definition of metro at 50,000-person minimum, affecting certain Arizona cities

Aerial: Lake Havasu City

By ggrado | Arizona Capitol Times

Facing criticism from small cities that feared losing status and funding, the federal government said Tuesday that it won’t raise the population threshold for what qualifies as a metro area.

The Office of Budget and Management said it will keep the minimum population needed in a community’s core city at 50,000 residents in order to be designated a “metropolitan statistical area,” also known as an MSA.

The federal government had been considering doubling that threshold to 100,000 people. Under that earlier proposal, 144 cities with core populations of 50,000 to 99,000 were at risk of becoming “micropolitan statistical areas” instead. The proposal would have changed the designation of more than a third of the current 392 MSAs.

Leaders of metro areas like Bismarck, North Dakota; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Auburn, Alabama, had worried the change would cause real harm, preventing urban areas from getting designated federal funding and making them less attractive for economic development. In Arizona, Prescott Valley-Prescott, Flagstaff, Sierra Vista-Douglas and Lake Havasu City-Kingman were considered MSAs.

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