State population growth in exurbs

Aerial view of Phoenix

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services  

Arizona added nearly 109,000 new residents last year. 

But they were picky and choosy about where in the state they decided to live. 

New figures from the state Office of Economic Opportunity showed the state grew at a rate of 1.5% between June 30, 2020, and a year later. That’s how the agency tracks annual growth. 

And the more than 860,000 new residents in the past decade amounted to a 13.4% increase. 

So where did a lot of them go? 

Think about areas near the state’s major population centers, but far enough away to have houses that are affordable. 

Queen Creek, which is big enough to spill over into Pinal County, posted a 10% year-over-year growth in population. Buckeye, on the extreme other end of the Valley, was not far behind at 8.9% 

And since growth for Phoenix to the immediate south is blocked by the Gila River Indian Community, that left Pinal County communities of Coolidge and Eloy at 7.1% and 5.3% respectively. 

The desire for affordable homes also boosted the population of Casa Grande by 4.3% and Maricopa by 4.2%. 

Florence probably should have been on that list somewhere. 

But the official tally shows that community lost close to 1,600 residents over a 12-month period, making it the community with the greatest percentage loss at 6.2%. 

What’s behind that, though, has little to do with the desirability of the community. Jim Quang, the state demographer, said it must do largely with the fact there are fewer people in the custody of the state Department of Corrections there. 

Population in the Eyeman and Florence units went from 9,031 in June of 2020 to 7,796 a year later. 

And the trend continues, with the most recent inmate count at the two facilities now below 7,500. 

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