Sat, Dec. 14

Census: Overall population growth in Arizona since 2010

Counties (unincorporated communities minus municipalities)

Counties (unincorporated communities minus municipalities)

PHOENIX -- The push to what used to be the edges of metro civilization continues in Arizona.

New figures Wednesday from the U.S. Census Bureau show five cities with double-digit population growth between the official 2010 count and estimates as of last July 1. And four of them are along the outer growth rings around Phoenix.

A similar pattern shows up in Pima County, though not to the same extent. Marana grew 9.5 percent since the decennial census, with a 6.4 percent population boost in Sahuarita.

By contrast, the overall increase for the entire state was just 3.7 percent.

The outlier in all this is San Luis, which, according to the latest data, added nearly 5,700 residents since the 2010 census. And that translates to a 22.3 percent population boom for what had once been a tiny border hamlet.

None of that is any surprise to Tony Reyes, a Yuma County supervisor who previously served as mayor for 12 years. He said San Luis offers two things that make it attractive: proximity to the international border and low-cost housing.

In fact, Reyes is responsible for much of the latter factor as executive director of Comite de Bien Estar which building affordable homes. He said housing can be built in his community for up to 30 percent less than the same building would cost just up the road in Yuma.

As to location, Reyes said there are many migrants who work in the United States but don't want to go through the bother of crossing the border every morning. Reyes presumes most are legal residents, as those without papers are unlikely to want to live in San Luis "where the Border Patrol rides around in the back yard all the time.'

The other issue related to location is what Reyes called a sort of "reverse migration' of Mexican nationals who moved to California years ago for work that has since disappeared. He said they want to be close to families who may live across the line in San Luis Rio Colorado but remain in this country.

Everywhere else, the communities that grew rapidly were the ones which have become the latest round of bedroom communities as closer-in suburbs to Phoenix have filled up.

And there are few signs of slowing.

In fact, among cities of at least 50,000 the Census Bureau reports two of them are in the Top 15 for growth in just the past year.

Goodyear, at 4.8 percent, took the No. 6 slot with a one-year growth of 4.8 percent. Gilbert held down the No. 12 slot with its 4.0 percent annual population increase.

All that compares with just a 1.2 percent jump in population statewide.

Looking at slightly longer trends -- and communities of all sizes -- Queen Creek grew 12.6 percent since the 2010 census, enough to nudge ahead of Kingman.

Goodyear, with an 11.6 percent population increase since 2010, has edged ahead of Flagstaff, which only grew 4.2 percent, with Buckeye's 11.4 percent allowing it to jump ahead of Lake Havasu City which posted just a 0.6 percent population increase over the same time.

And Gilbert's 10.3 percent boost in residents since the census now has it larger than Scottsdale.

At the other extreme, the report finds that Bisbee lost 215 residents since 2010, translating to a 3.9 percent reduction. Not far behind were Huachuca City with a 3.2 percent drop since the census, with Willcox and Litchfield Park each down 3.1 percent.

But there are many more Arizona communities the Census Bureau says had shed population since the annual count. Most already were small cities but that list also includes Yuma, Bullhead City and Florence.

The report shows some other patterns emerging.

While they could not keep pace with the far suburbs, Phoenix and its immediate surrounding neighbors continue to grow at a pace ahead of the rest of the state.

Phoenix itself showed a 4.7 percent population increase since 2010. Chandler and Peoria each grew 5.5 percent, with Surprise up 5.1 percent, Scottsdale growing 4.4 percent, Mesa with a 4.2 percent increase and Tempe at 4 percent. Glendale lagged the state slightly at 3.5 percent.

In Pima County, however, the pattern is different.

While Marana and Sahuarita showed sharp increases, Tucson itself managed to grow just 1.2 percent, a third of the state rate. Oro Valley did somewhat better at 1.5 percent, with landlocked South Tucson posting a 0.8 percent population increase.

Even in the unincorporated areas of Pima County lagged the state, growing just 1.3 percent over that same period.

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