Phoenix-area construction. 

PHOENIX — Two cities on the far urban fringe of Phoenix grew faster than any others in Arizona in the Census Bureau’s new rankings.

In fact, the two, Queen Creek and Maricopa, were among the Top 15 nationwide for population increases between July 1, 2021 and a year later, Census figures released Thursday show.

The Census only ranks what it considers “large cities,” which means those with 50,000 or more residents.

A deeper dive into the data finds Coolidge, fueled by new factories and economic development, outpaced both Queen Creek and Maricopa with a one-year population increase of 11.9%. Queen Creek grew by 6.7% and Maricopa by nearly 6.2%.

The new report also finds that about one out of four Arizona communities lost population. The biggest loser was Douglas, which shed 4.6% of its residents, dropping the city below 16,000 — essentially back to where it was at the turn of the century.

As for the Tucson area, Marana added 1,290 residents in the one-year period, bringing population to 55,962, for about a 2.4% growth rate.

Sahuarita registered less than 1.2% growth. Tucson itself came close to, but did not crack, the 1% mark.

Austin, Texas area takes top sports

The national report shows the fastest growing communities tend to be on the edge of existing cities, and most are in the U.S. South and West.

The Census says Georgetown, Texas, about an hour outside of Austin, grew the fastest by percentage in the past year at 14.4%. Kyle and Leander, Texas, tied at third and fourth at 10.9% year-over-year growth, also sit outside of Austin.

No. 2, Santa Cruz, California, at 12.5%, benefits from its location south of San Jose and the Silicon Valley.

Growth patterns in Arizona

In Arizona, decades ago cities including Glendale and Mesa grew by leaps and bounds, filling up most available space. At the same time, more freeways were built, widened and extended. That promoted living farther out, as it cut down commute times to main cities.

Queen Creek is a key example.

Not only did the state — much of it with county tax dollars — complete the Loop 202 freeway into the Phoenix area’s southeast valley, it now is building and extending what had been a one-mile stretch of State Route 24 from the 202 all the way into Pinal County.

That’s just the beginning: The new state budget signed this month by Gov. Katie Hobbs gives Queen Creek $87.5 million to further extend SR 24, including a traffic interchange at Ironwood Road.

Even with the freeway still not complete, Queen Creek managed to add 4,416 residents in the year ending July 1, 2022. Maricopa added 3,844.

Other communities in — and beyond — the fringes of the Phoenix area also racked up strong year-over-year population increases, including 4.6% for Casa Grande, 3.8% for Goodyear and nearly as much for adjacent Buckeye.

Wickenburg and Surprise grew by more than 3%.

Coolidge also qualifies as being on the fringes of Phoenix, and its growth was aided by economic development, with more to come. In November, Procter & Gamble announced a $500 million investment in a manufacturing facility. And Coolidge has available land to accommodate industrial and residential development.

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Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at @azcapmedia or email