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Census: Goodyear, Gilbert among nation’s fastest-growing cities

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WASHINGTON – Two Arizona towns were among the 15 fastest-growing in the United States in the last year, according to a report released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

Goodyear’s 4.8 percent growth from 2012 to 2013 landed it in sixth place for growth among cities with 50,000 people or more, while Gilbert’s 4 percent growth put it in 12th place, according to Census estimates.

The bureau estimated that Goodyear had 72,864 on July 1 and Gilbert had 229,972 residents then.

Arizona experts welcomed the rankings as further proof that the Valley is recovering from the economic recession.

“It speaks to the fact that we are in an area that will see continued growth,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

While it was not among cities with the fastest growth rate, the city of Phoenix ranked fifth in the nation in overall growth, the bureau said, with almost 25,000 residents added during the year.

Affordable housing and attractive neighborhoods bring people to Arizona, Sanders said. If companies like Intel, which has operations in Chandler, come to the state and create new jobs, more opportunities become available, and more people come to the Valley.

In both Goodyear and Gilbert, experts say the growth of the housing market has helped boost the population.

John Safin, president and CEO of the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Goodyear has expanded thanks to the availability of land.

“Unlike parts of the metro Phoenix, the West Valley actually has room to grow,” Safin said.

There is also “a strong quality of life” in the West Valley, Safin said, pointing to the area’s shopping, entertainment and natural attractions.

He pointed to factors that should help Goodyear continue its growth. One is State Route 303, scheduled for completion at the end of the year, that will connect the West Valley to Interstate 10 and State Route 17. Safin also identified the state’s steady, hiccup-free economic recovery as another factor that could promote growth.

Housing has also helped Gilbert grow, said Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. She said the East Valley town’s ranking did not surprise her, adding that it experienced fast-paced growth during the 1990s.

“We’ve been in a growth mode for quite some time,” she said.

Population growth slowed during the recession, Tilque said, but it has once again resumed because of Gilbert’s reputation as a small-town community with good schools and safe neighborhoods.

“I think that’s our secret,” she said.

Gilbert would likely reach capacity if the population climbs to 325,000 people, she said, but until then, the strong rate of growth could continue for another five years.

The Census report on “subcounty” population estimates for 2013 also said that Casa Grande was one of 14 areas to pass the 50,000-population mark last year, reaching an estimated 50,111 people.

Rodger Johnson, a demographer with the Census Bureau, said the estimated growth rates were based on data from the 2010 Census. He agreed that housing could be a driving factor in some areas, noting that the population of one part of a county can grow faster than another because of the available housing.