The Rim country is growing -- economically and socially.
All it takes is a drive on the Beeline Highway to see the changing face of Payson -- the construction of national chains like Home Depot and Dollar General signal a new beginning for the area's future.
Northern Arizona's Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported in 2003 that Gila County's population had increased by 2,700 from 1995 to 2000. Most of these transplanted residents are almost exclusively from the Valley and Southern California.
With this influx of people comes more county tax revenues ... and a spike in housing costs.
Paul Bates, an ERA Young Realty & Investment broker and Realtor, said houses are flying off the shelf. Property that usually sits on the market for three months is being sold in a matter of days.
"I did four or five listings in early August," Bates said. "By the end of August, they were already sold."
As Payson continues to grow, Bates said property values and home sales have accelerated, especially since the beginning of the year.
"A year ago the average price of a home was $160,000," he said. "Now I'm guessing, it's around $200,000 or more. Buyers are paying full price. Houses are selling before the ink is dry on the contract."
Not only is Payson's housing market booming, so is the construction business.
Last year, the town of Payson issued 179 permits for new single-family homes and 11 for commercial properties, totaling $41.6 million in construction values for 2004.
Ten years ago, the total value of construction for the month of December was $1.6 million. A decade later, construction values have nearly tripled to $3.3 million, closing out December 2004.
Scott Flake, executive director of Payson Economic Development Corporation, said Rim country's expanding economic diversity over the past year is impressive and exciting.
"Home Depot is a positive gain, and with the jobs and sales tax they are bringing in, it's huge," Flake said. "There's also been more people telecommuting who work for Valley and national companies."
Flake said some biotech firms are looking at Rim country as the ideal place to set up shop.
"We're focusing on companies that are going to bring in higher paying jobs," he said. "We want this to be a center for renewable technology. Sustainability creates a more healthy environment, it helps industry and it keeps our community safe."
Flake said his organization last year created a board of directors for the Barry Goldwater Center for Renewable Technologies to be headquartered in Payson.
Flake added that the center could be a coup for the Rim country and Gila Community College where Flake anticipates housing the center.
"All we're doing is creating that environment for growth," said Flake."Till the soil and when we get a seed, it'll grow."