Payson Growth Stalls Star Valley Shrinks

Town leads county but lags state

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New census data shows growth in Payson has nearly screetched to a halt in the last few years.

In 2008, the town grew by less than 1 percent, down from 14 percent in the previous eight years. At the peak of the boom between 1990 and 2000, growth growth spiked at 63 percent.

“It slammed on the breaks,” Mayor Kenny Evans said of population growth.

Payson’s growth rate in the past year dropped to about one-third of the statewide rate. However, the town accounted for almost all the growth in Gila County’s. Strangely enough, although Globe has been losing population steadily since 2000, between 2007 and 2008 it grew by 1.6 percent. .Star Valley bascially broke even in the 2007-08 period - with a net loss of 13 residents.

Evans mostly blames the national economy’s boom-bust cycles for putting the skid’s on Payson’s growth - especially in fields like tourism and construction.

“We need to put a greater thrust in trying to get countercyclical businesses into town,” he said. The town also needs to invest in work force housing the average worker can afford to bring people back, he added.

Although Evans said he anticipated a slow down in business growth with the recession, the reality is far more dramatic. He stressed that the town needs to attract businesses that do well, even in a downturn.

“Every business is cyclical in town now,” he said.

Businesses like restaurants, retail, and even mining hinge on the fitness of the economy. When the economy falters, they do to. As an example, he cited the need for more education facilities, which do well even in a rough economic climate.

The town also needs to capitalize on its positives; its location in the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, natural resources, recreation options, and proximity to the Valley.

“We are in a once-in-a-generation downturn of a magnitude of the great depression,” Evan said. “But there is a silver lining– it forces us to do business differently.”

In terms of housing, Evans said Payson needs affordable housing for the work force. More homes under $160,000.

It will be another year until the official 2010 census is correlated and released. However, looking at the data now, Payson is In terms of housing, Evans said Payson needs affordable housing for the work force. More homes under $160,000.

It will be another year until the official 2010 census is correlated and released. However, looking at the data now, Payson is growing more than other cities and towns in Arizona.

In 2000, Payson stood at 13,620 residents. Today, we have added a few more cowboys and cowgirls and have close to 15,500 residents.

Compare that with the rest of the county and Payson is ahead of the pack in terms of growth.

Gila County saw a 1.6 percent jump in residents from 2000 to 2008, while Globe saw a reversal with nearly a 4 percent decline.

Although some cities are seeing a decline in population, overall the county and state is growing exponentially according to census data.

Statewide, Arizona grew 27 percent from 2000 to 2008 and by 2.3 percent in the last year.

From 2007 to 2008, Gila County gained 229 residents, Payson saw 123 new faces while Star Valley lost 13 residents, according to the US Census Bureau, Population Estimates Program.

Asked why he thought Star Valley was losing residents, Evans said the town is like a suburb. Similar to the Valley, the surrounding communities do well when Phoenix is flourishing. When it takes a hit, smaller towns do as well, such as Goodyear.

Star Valley is a suburb of Payson with many of its workers driving to Payson everyday for work. With Payson struggling, Star Valley is as well.

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