Maricopa is a city of dreams and ambitions. That’s how it started, of course, with a group of developers staring at miles and miles of farmland and dreaming of a time when it would all be filled with homes and businesses. And those dreams have turned into reality, with a city bursting at the seams and new residents and the promise of more to come.
Few dreams come true without their challenges, and Maricopa’s growth has been far from linear. That was true when the Great Recession crippled the local real estate market, and it was true as cultural events had to be shut down due to COVID-19. But while residents were stuck at home and plans were put on hold, Mayor Christian Price says the city’s staff had their eyes firmly focused on the future and how to make sure Maricopa comes out of the pandemic stronger than ever.
“We’ve all had our challenges. We’ve had areas that declined due to the pandemic, like Highway User Revenue Funds. With people not traveling as much, the HURF money went down,” Price said. “But like most challenges in life, if you get creative you can find ways to make things truly wonderful and profitable. So without minimizing the heartache people went through with losing their jobs, the fact of the matter is you had many other industries who made out like bandits.”
One of the areas of the economy that grew during the pandemic was online retail. This works out well for Maricopa, because the tax dollars that come from those sales are tied to the point of purchase, which means homes. So whereas people might have gone to the Valley to make some big purchases before, when they’re stuck at home they’re bringing some revenue to Maricopa.
That’s why, despite all the hard times that have been experienced over the last year and a half, Price sees the overall strength of the community only growing. As someone who works in finance, the mayor likes to take a macro approach. He remembers when the real estate market hit rock bottom, and people were telling him Maricopa would never bounce back. While he didn’t necessarily blame them for thinking that, considering how grim everything looked at the time, he wanted to take that bet.
That was the time when houses here almost literally could not be given away. Now, Price is taking calls from people concerned that there is a lack of affordable housing in the city. The real estate market is now the exact opposite of where it was only a decade ago. Prices are through the roof, very few homes are for sale and new ones are popping up all over the area, and still the demand for housing can’t be quenched.
“We went from the bargain basement location to now,” Price said. “Because of the people we have here, because of the quality of life, we have the opposite problem. Now you can’t build them fast enough.”
One major lesson Price has learned from his time in finance is that nothing is permanent. He knows everything comes in cycles and is focused on taking advantage of the good times when they come.
Take the new Exceptional Healthcare hospital. While Price admits he’d like to see any project come to Maricopa, there are certain developments that are needed to become a self-sustaining city. It’s about creating a complete economy, he said, and a big part of that is having necessary services in the city so residents don’t have to leave.
“Everything that’s not here, I’d like to see here,” he said. “But it’s about finding balance, and certainly there are things that are critical to us becoming a self-sustaining city. It’s about jobs, and an economy that sustains itself requires industry, retail, everything.”
A 24-hour emergency room certainly checks a box, but Price said he sees the hospital as part of an even bigger picture. Industry is looking for a reliable workforce, along with accessibility with transportation. That industry then brings in more people with higher median incomes, which is what retail likes to see. Soon enough, a city should have a cycle of new demand met with new supply.
So when Price drives over the State Route 347 overpass and sees that hospital going up, the vision goes far beyond the steel and concrete.
“People always look at the surface. They see a hospital that they can go to. And that’s as important to me as it is to them,” Price said. “But I look at things differently. I try to see what other people and businesses this will bring. It can be a medical complex that wants to build around it and bring in more doctors and nurses. It’s about unlocking the treasure chest, and once you open it, you find a lot more than you were expecting.”