Maricopa County Growth



December 17, 2021

The City of Phoenix, Arizona at night.
Last week I attended the 58th Annual ASU/PNC Bank Economic Forecast Luncheon for 2022 down in Phoenix which shined a spotlight on recent news coming out of Maricopa County.

First, updated census data from 2020 offers a brutal reality check for anyone not up to speed on what is happening just a 90-minute drive from Sedona. The official population of Maricopa County in 2020 stood at 4.8 million. That makes it the fourth most populous county in the United States, exceeded only by Los Angeles County, Cook County, Illinois, and the Houston area’s Harris County. The most eye-popping statistic? Maricopa County grew by 1.4 million people in the last ten years. No county in America added more people in the previous decade.

Sedona lies on the very edge of this population explosion, and geographically speaking, it is moving our way. State planners recognize this, acknowledging that the I-17 corridor, the shortest and one of the oldest interstates in America, is woefully out of date, unable to effectively move the massive increase in traffic and the additional influx projected to come.

Beginning next year, ADOT is launching a $446 million I-17 improvement project between Anthem and Sunset Point. The three-year rebuild will add new lanes in both directions along the 15-mile stretch from Anthem to Black Canyon City, and eight miles of new flex lanes from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point. ADOT aims to reduce congestion, prevent backups during accidents, and improve emergency vehicle movement.

The improvements also make Red Rock Country more accessible to Maricopa County, our largest tourism feeder market. As transportation infrastructure accommodates the County’s growth, Sedona can expect continued visitation increases. The accompanying environmental and social pressures make Sedona’s sustainability initiatives even more imperative. Those initiatives include improved traffic management, the launch of a public transit system, educating visitors to respect our lifestyle and environment, dispersion of visitation regionally to reduce overcrowding and spread the economic benefits, workforce housing, short-term rental mitigation, trail enhancements, OHV management, and more. All of these are in various stages of development. As a convening, catalyzing and championing organization, the chamber has a prominent role in each. Sedona must continue prioritizing and financing these initiatives while working together to make them a reality.

In November, Governor Ducey, Senator Sinema and Representative Greg Stanton joined Gulfstream President Mark Burns at Mesa Gateway Airport to announce that Gulfstream, one of the world’s leading private jet manufacturers, will build its $70 million West Coast maintenance and repair facility at Gateway.

The facilities and new jobs are a big deal, but Maricopa County economic development officials are excited about what it could mean for business and tourism growth. People who own and fly Gulfstream jets are usually high-level business leaders, and the Mesa facility will show off Arizona to many more decision-makers. As Gulfstream President Burns pointed out, “People from all over the world will bring their airplanes here.” With our world-renowned vistas and outdoor recreation, high-end resorts and restaurants, and being deeply rooted in the arts, you can be sure Sedona will be on the itinerary for many of these highly valued, high-spending visitors. The Gulfstream announcement shows the ripple effect of economic news coming out of greater Phoenix on the Sedona Verde Valley.

We are fortunate that the City and the chamber have a history of working together to address tourism comprehensively, focusing on projects that preserve our quality of life and environment while keeping our economy strong. It is a complex, challenging and difficult balancing act. But we at the chamber pledge to remain at the forefront to push for innovative regional solutions.

-Candace Carr Strauss,