Growth and Un-Growth in Arizona

A boomtown in the desert that was expected to grow in population to more than 350,000 by 2020 is going bust, and putting things in perspective as the economy dives and foreclosures spread.
February 28, 2009, 9am PST | Nate Berg
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"The town of Maricopa, which isn't part of the nearby county of the same name, is about 30 miles south of downtown Phoenix and is separated from the city by an Indian reservation that remains mostly desert."

"But Maricopa's fate is closely tied to that of the Phoenix metro area, where billboards tout foreclosure auctions and bankruptcy lawyers. Largely because of a plunge in construction and related fields, employment in the metro area shrank 4.5% last year, steeper than the national drop of about 2%, says Lee McPheters, an economics professor at Arizona State University. One consolation, he says, is that the steep drop in home prices and low property taxes compared with California and Midwestern states eventually could bring in a new wave of residents to revive the local economy."

"Now, Maricopa will do well just to grow its population gradually for a few years. In 2005, consultants hired by the town projected that the population would reach 350,000 by 2020. City officials no longer see that as realistic. The real estate bust "will make for a more sane [pace of] growth," says Mayor Anthony Smith. He points out empty spaces that could be occupied by parks or a community college."

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Published on Friday, February 27, 2009 in The Wall Street Journal
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