PHOENIX — Think about the Valley in 2002. No State Farm Stadium, Y2K, downtown Phoenix was a ghost town after 3 p.m.
Now imagine what the Valley will look like 20 years from now.
“We're projecting we're going to add another million and a half people to Maricopa County by 2040," said Scott Wilken with the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Wilken is the data guru who looks at the numbers to make predictions about what the future holds.
And right now, Wilken says that equals one new person moving to the Valley every six minutes.
“People are coming from everywhere around the United States," Wilken said. "Twenty percent of our movers [are] coming from California, but we're also seeing four, five, 6% of our movers coming from places like Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Washington, Texas."
And the reasons are varied, Wilken said. Everything from climate to taxes and economics.
Where will they live?
Wilken's projections show the far west Valley growing in population over the next 20 years. Buckeye and Surprise are all gaining in population. The estimates show those cities will be roughly the same population as Scottsdale, Chandler and Glendale.
But while those cities will get more populated, the projections show Phoenix will stay the most populous city, followed by Mesa.
“[There's] not as much room in the east Valley," Wilken said. "In the far east Valley, there's space, there are some plans for some big developments out that way."
Apart from the distant suburbs, Wilken said, the downtown core is filling in with large apartment buildings. Wilken said he's also seeing vacant and underdeveloped land in downtown Phoenix being bought up and repurposed as high-rise apartments.
Where will they work?
The Arizona Commerce Authority believes tech will be an even bigger sector for Arizona's economy in the next 20 years.
Intel is already expanding its Chandler campus. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is currently building a massive facility near I-17 and Carefree Highway.
“The more significant area for the advanced manufacturers and the technology companies in the corridor between Tucson and Phoenix," said Sandra Watson, president of the Arizona Commerce Authority.
Other companies have moved into the Valley, dealing with solar power, battery production, recycling, and electric cars.
The old joke is that eventually, Phoenix will keep growing until it runs into Los Angeles. Wilken said that probably won't happen, but you will see the desert start to fill in with development heading out West.
It's almost impossible to tell what the future holds, but Wilken said it's a safe bet Arizonans will have lots of new neighbors in the next 20 years.
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