‘Prescott’ area among Top 20 in population growth

Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis is surprised to hear that the U.S. Census Bureau counts his Verde Valley district as part of the “Prescott Metropolitan Statistical Area,” which the Census Bureau announced Thursday is the 16th fastest-growing MSA in the country.

“If we’re part of the Prescott metro area, then I want to run for mayor,” said Davis, who lives in Cottonwood.

The federal government’s Office of Management and Budget defines a metropolitan statistical area as an area with at least one urban cluster of 50,000 or more people that covers at least an entire county, and sometimes more than one county, explained Paul Mackun, geographer for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Prescott MSA covers all of Yavapai County, Mackun said. It’s called the Prescott MSA instead of another name because Prescott is the county’s largest municipality.

Yavapai County covers 8,125 square miles and is larger than the state of Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island or New Jersey.

Another arm of the federal government, the Federal Highway Administration, required Prescott and Prescott Valley to form a “metropolitan planning organization” (MPO) for transportation planning purposes when their combined population hit 50,000 several years ago. It left out Chino Valley, which locals also consider part of the Prescott tri-city area. Local officials invited Chino to be part of the MPO anyway.

Yavapai County Administrator Jim Holst isn’t sure what to think about the various federal definitions of Prescott’s metro area.

“You’re asking me if I think it’s odd that one federal agency might do something different than another federal agency?” Holst said.

Apparently the federal government is trying to say that Yavapai County’s population is growing pretty darn fast, and that’s true. Davis said the Verde Valley, on the other side of Mingus Mountain from the Prescott tri-city area, probably is growing faster than the Prescott area.

Rural areas are growing faster than Prescott, too, observed Prescott Planning Commissioner Len Scamardo. He builds custom homes and figures three out of every four go up in unincorporated areas around Prescott.

The Census Bureau looked at population change from 2000 to 2003 in its new study of the fastest-growing areas.

Ranking number one with a growth rate of 16.8 percent from 2000 to 2003 was the metro statistical area of Greeley, Colo., which grew from 181,000 to 211,000 people.

The Prescott MSA is 16th with a growth rate of 10.1 percent, from 168,000 to 184,000.

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area came in 13th with an increase of 10.5 percent, from 3.25 million to 3.59 million. It includes Maricopa and part of Pinal counties, Mackun said. It’s the only other Arizona statistical area on the top-20 metro list.

Twelve of the top 20 metro growth areas are located in the West.

The Census Bureau also put out a list of smaller “micropolitan” statistical areas, and one Arizona region made that list.

The Lake Havasu City-Kingman MSA is ranked #4, with a population increase of 10.5 percent.

Who knows, the Prescott MSA title might bring the county’s residents closer together, Davis agreed.

“We may be part of the family (in the Verde Valley), but we’re more like a red-headed stepchild, I think,” he added.

For more information about the new report, visit the Internet at www.census.gov.

Contact the reporter at kdodder@prescottaz.com