So, the 2020 U.S. census figures are out. As a nation, we’re big. And, we’re getting bigger! No new revelations there.
Scholars seem interested mostly with the new data on race. In sum, the white majority has decreased in size to about 57-percent of the total population. The mix of ethnic and numerous other racial groups has increased, though not as fast as had been thought. But, the numbers and trends point to a likelihood of a near 50-50 split - White versus all the other non-White groups - in the 2030 sampling.
People with a political bent have begun poring over the tables and knee-deep statistical data. Both national parties are trying to find which portions of their interests have changed and whether such changes will add or subtract from their regions of interest. And political representation.
I’m more concerned with something in the second paragraph of the document announcing the figures. That interest is based on the fact that Barb and I now live adjacent to the “fastest growing city in America” and the city that’s replaced Philadelphia as the “fifth largest city in the nation.”
We don’t actually live within the Phoenix city limits, which stretch many miles into the surrounding desert. No, we live in what is technically Surprise, Arizona, a relatively new and fast-growing community adjacent to Phoenix. We’re part of what advertisers call “Metro Phoenix.” There’s a large gaggle of such “adjacent” communities like Peoria, Glendale, Mesa, San Tan, Tempe, etc., etc., etc., etc.. And, etc..
The Arizona highway folks recently completed the last segment of a “beltway” all the way around Phoenix. There are highways 121, 202 and 303. Some portions of this “beltway”are six-seven lanes in each direction with traffic filling most of them at all hours.
Once you’ve decided you can survive the speeds, being fender-to-fender with strangers and with supreme confidence in your guardian angels, there’s an interesting phenomenon to see. Every 10 miles or so, surrounding Phoenix, there are “burbs” with new batches of subdivisions.
Get off the beltway at any point and drive down main street in each of the 30 or so of these desert “cities.” You’ll find Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wendy’s, Albertson’s, Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Taco Time, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and an assortment of smaller businesses adjacent. All these names and more repeated every 10 miles or so. Each grouping proud of it’s place in the Phoenix metro area.
I remember being so excited living in Boise or Roseburg when the first Costco outlet came to town. Proud and excited. But, in our “metro area,” Costco opens a new store every couple of months!
Phoenix is not only the state capitol, with about a dozen universities and colleges, it’s also the population center of Maricopa County with some 4-million residents. We have a large Hispanic presence as well as Asian and other subgroups. Indeed, Phoenix seems to represent the changing national racial and ethnic numbers borne out by the census. Attracting some 20-30-thousand new folks a year!
Though Phoenix has all the trappings expected in a city so large, there’s one unusual category that doesn’t get much attention. The industrial areas surrounding the city are filled with huge concrete warehouses. Hundred’s of ‘em. Many are a million square feet with 80 or 90 loading docks each. They stretch out for miles. New ones are being added daily.
Phoenix has become a national/international shipping point. Every type of goods you can imagine are trucked or flown into the area to be dropped, sorted, then reloaded and shipped out. From cars to toothbrushes. UPS has a huge complex of buildings. Facebook just announced a 940-thousand square foot structure to house row upon row of computer systems. REI, Boeing, Amazon shipping/receiving center(s), Hanover Pretzels, Mayo Clinic(s), Dick’s Sporting Goods and many more fill these buildings. Carvana’s main operation is also here.
Surrounding all of these, residential subdivisions. Everywhere.
I’m not familiar with local community planning and zoning laws. But, seeing thousands of houses and apartments springing up in all directions, there don’t seem to be many. In other places we’ve lived, growth has been more-or-less contiguous; limited, in most cases, to extensions of sewer, roads and water lines, etc.. Not here. Not by a damned sight!
Go 10 miles in one direction and you’ll find several hundred homes and a small shopping mall. Surrounded by miles and miles of undeveloped desert. Drive 30 or 50 miles in another direction and there’s another island of homes with no seeming connection to any developed area. Just more miles and miles of desert.
The little community of Buckeye, Arizona, recently annexed a subdivision of golf courses and expensive homes with at least 12 miles of barren desert between downtown Buckeye and the newly added community. Buckeye can provide no new amenities to the newly conscripted. But, it may have stolen the moniker “Biggest Little City In The West” from Reno.
Living in/adjacent to the nation’s fifth largest city has its advantages. And its disadvantages. With a major league team in nearly all national sports, Spring training Cactus League, entertainment centers for all the big time shows, shopping in everything from Neiman Marcus to Dollar Store and an interesting Western heritage all its own, Phoenix can be an interesting place to live.
With temperatures that can hit 120 degrees, scorpions, coyotes and other scavengers in your neighborhood, big city crime, crowds at virtually all venues, “Snowbirds” by the thousands, and a constant brown haze in the air daily - well - it IS America’s fifth largest city, you know.