On January 17, 2017, Jessica Boehm of the Arizona Republic did a story entitled “What is the wealthiest city in the West Valley?” She said, “The West Valley is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the country, according to U. S. Census data…But despite the booming population, the region lacks significant high-wage employment opportunities, often putting West Valley cities behind East Valley counterparts – like Chandler and Gilbert – with wealth indicators like household income and employment.” Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2017/01/17/wealthiest-city-goodyear-west-valley-census-household-income/96449470/ .
The major factor hampering the West Valley is the lack of adequate transportation corridors with enough capacity to meet not only overburdened current needs but those of the future. Just try to use I-10 from 83rd Avenue to 35th Avenue during morning or evening drive times...absolute gridlock.
State and regional leaders have always succumbed to the political pressure applied by East Valley cities while considering the West Valley cities as the ugly stepchild. West Valley cities are outperforming all of the East Valley cities in terms of growth and it is projected to continue well into the future. It is time for state leaders to allocate resources to develop the kind of transportation system that already exists in the East Valley cities. Instead of allocating money to add yet another lane to a healthy East Valley system, the West Valley doesn’t need a token but a real resource commitment to build a transportation grid equal to that of its sister East Valley cities.
I remember attending a meeting where Elliot Pollack, a preeminent and well respected economic data analyst in the state, said Glendale will become the geographic center of the Valley. I have never forgotten that assertion.
And yes, based upon 2014 and 2015 U. S. Census data, Goodyear with a median household income of $70,003 is the wealthiest West Valley city…for now. It is a snapshot in time and the character of any snapshot depends upon factors that change and rearrange constantly.
I did some research based upon available U.S. Census data on the 10 largest cities in Arizona. For comparison purposes I did not gather data on #2 Tucson, because it obviously, is not in Maricopa County. I also did not gather data for #7 Scottsdale or #8 Tempe because I believe these cities are unique in character.
Please note that in terms of median income #1 Phoenix; #3 Mesa and #6 Glendale all share the same general range of median household income ($46,000 to $48,000). Six cities have poverty rates of 10% or higher: Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale, Avondale and Buckeye. With the exception of Litchfield Park all of these cities share unemployment rates from 4.2% to 6.2%.
This is not to belittle Goodyear’s success having identified and worked to attract aerospace manufacturing and health care as its job core priorities. What will be determinate of Goodyear’s ultimate economic future is that it is currently 191.52 square miles with much of its land still waiting for development. Its current population density rate is very low, at an average of 412 persons per square mile. This is in stark contrast to Phoenix, Mesa and Glendale all having an average of 3,000 to 4,000 persons per square mile. Density of population has a way of leveling the playing field.
Glendale has its job cut out for it to make some of these numbers better than they were in 2014-15. It has been working hard and these numbers don’t reflect the growth in West Glendale of its medical/health facilities.
The numbers also do not reveal that, unlike some Valley cities, Glendale is not land-locked. Those Valley cities that are not land-locked have already, in some cases, annexed all of the land possible within their annexable borders. Glendale has another estimated 50 square miles that it can annex.
The current city council’s focus is on job creation of high-paying jobs and there is still plenty of opportunity to do exactly that. The statistics for Glendale create a road map that can be used to develop strategies to address them. While this snapshot in time was not pretty for Glendale, it has so much potential to create a brighter future. The next federal census in 2020 will, I bet, paint a picture of a much improved Glendale.
© Joyce Clark, 2017
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