Mention Egypt to anyone and they’re likely to conjure up fanciful images of the ancient city of Cairo and its pyramidic ruins, the mysterious Sphinx sculptures on the Nile’s west bank, or the enduring legend of Queen Cleopatra.
So what could the pioneering residents of Goodyear have been thinking when, 100 years ago, they named one of the large settlement tracts there Egypt? The answer, as it happens, is that they were thinking less about King Tut than they were Egyptian cotton. But more on that later.
As a community, present-day Goodyear is a budding success story, registering almost unprecedented population growth and the infrastructure to support it over the past three decades.
Like many other towns and cities surrounding Phoenix, Goodyear was, for many years, just another sleepy suburban community in the great arc of Arizona’s capital city. Although it got off to a promising early start, the community languished for a time in the mid- to latter part of the past century, when its industrial spark sputtered a bit.
In historic terms, Goodyear is a relative newbie in Arizona. It was founded just over a century ago in 1917 as part of a land purchase executed by the famed, Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. But the community wasn’t established to actually make tires. Rather, the 36,000-acre plot of land was purchased by the company to grow long-staple cotton crops used as a component of tire cords in their manufacturing process.
This brings us back to the Egyptian question. An interesting footnote of Goodyear’s history is that the community was indeed once known simply as Egypt. The explanation for it is that the multitudinous bales of cotton Goodyear Tire and Rubber was initially using for its manufacturing process had originally come from the hot, dry crop fields of the country of southern Egypt. Because the desert southwest climate was rumored to be similar to that of the cotton-growing regions in Egypt, Goodyear employee Paul Litchfield was sent by the company to investigate that claim. Eventually, he was instrumental in heading up the purchase of the land for the company. Egypt later evolved to Goodyear Farms, and finally to just Goodyear.
In the early 1940s, in one of Goodyear’s last bursts of the industry prior to a long lull, the community became a vital resource for World War II-era production of aircraft frames. In fact, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation was constructed adjacent to the Litchfield Naval Air Facility precisely for that purpose.
Slow and steady
Goodyear took a rather long time to fully awaken and become the bustling, dynamic city of 90,000 residents that it is today. In fact, when it was incorporated as a town in 1946, it consisted of only 150 or so homes, a couple of hundred apartments, a grocery store, a barbershop, a beauty salon, and a gas station.
Interestingly, the majority of Goodyear’s population growth occurred only after 1990, when plans for several large-scale, master-planned communities were finalized and construction of them began.
Today, Lori Gary, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, is taking an understandably cautious approach to ensure that the city continues to grow responsibly and productively. Gary muses on what’s occurred in the past few decades.
“We’re only 11 percent built-out, while some other communities are already built-out or approaching it. So there’s a lot of room for growth.”
– Lori Gary, Economic Development Director, City of Goodyear
“There are a lot of reasons why Goodyear hasseen such a hike in population and development over the past several years,” she notes. “For one thing, we’re only 11 percent built-out, while some other communities surrounding Phoenix are already fully built-out or approaching it. So there’s a lot of room for growth, and residential is one of those growth areas.”
But with residential growth, a city must also have the economic means to support that growth. “Geographically, we’re very fortunate to straddle Interstate 10 and have our close proximity to Loop 303. Strategically, for business development, we’re lucky to enjoy that geography,” Gary points out. “Fifteen years ago, we were struggling to attract businesses into our community, so the city council and management became very focused on the development of infrastructure. That focus has allowed us to grow a strong industrial base, which includes advanced manufacturing and logistics companies, among others.”
Gary cites the Ball Corporation, the former glass canning jar manufacturer, which now focuses on aluminum containers for soda, beer and other purposes, as one of the main industrial entities in the city. Others, she adds, include a subsidiary of the Sub-Zero-Wolf kitchen appliance manufacturer and a world-class Microsoft data center.
The industry isn’t the only allure that Goodyear can claim. With its characteristic wide-open spaces, the city has increasingly drawn outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who frequent its several parks and recreation areas. One of them, the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, sprawls over a vast, 20,000-acre area, the major portion of which is pristine desert. The park boasts eight trails designed for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. Additionally, Estrella Mountain Park has two baseball fields and campgrounds.
And speaking of baseball, one of the mainstays of Goodyear’s popularity has been its long tenure as a West Valley hub for professional sporting venues. Chiefly among them, Goodyear Ballpark has for decades been the spring training facility for the Major League Baseball teams from Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Add to that the popular Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park in nearby Litchfield Park. With its claim to have the largest collection of exotic animals in Arizona, it’s been a major draw to the area.
“We’re seeing an influx of young people into the Goodyear community—people who are moving here to live, work and make Goodyear a better place all around.”
– Jon Jorgenson, Goodyear Branch Manager,National Bank of Arizona
By leaps and bounds
Goodyear’s skyrocketing growth in the past couple of decades has literally created a “new city” built upon the bedrock footings of the old one. And that growth is projected to continue unabated. Arizona planners predict that in just the next 15 years, Goodyear’s population will soar to 360,000, more than triple its current size.
Jon Jorgenson, Manager of National Bank of Arizona’s Goodyear branch, is in a prime position to observe that growth and gauge how successfully Goodyear is meeting its challenges, on its path to becoming a vital and appealing place to live and work.
“One of the markers for us is that we’re seeing an influx of young people into the Goodyear community—people who are moving here to live, work and make Goodyear a better place all around,” he says. “We see it in the caliber of homes that are going up, in the number of new businesses and restaurants, and, more generally, the number of people approaching us for business lending. I think the economy here isn’t merely growing, it’s growing at an exponential rate.”
‘This is where we want to be’
One entrepreneurial couple that saw the potential of Goodyear are Coleene and Dennis McDermott. The couple moved to Goodyear from Tempe almost five years ago, and are now the co-owners and operators of Floyd’s Ace Hardware in nearby Litchfield Park, just a few minutes from Goodyear.
“This area has witnessed such a high rate of growth in just the three years that we’ve been here in business; it’s really been phenomenal,” Coleene says. “Generally, we’ve seen a 6 percent growth in our business year over year.”
The McDermotts regard their move to Goodyear as a permanent one. “This is it, this is where we want to be,” Coleene says. “We just love it.”
One aspect of living and owning a business in Goodyear that the McDermotts engage in is creating community partnerships wherever they make sense. “From a business standpoint, we have relationships with a lot of local businesses to provide them goods and services,” Coleene says. “But we also try to stay very active to help promote those things that really make a community a great place to live. For example, in January, we’ll have the local Girl Scouts out in front of our store. It’s our small way of being a part of our local community, as both residents and business people.”
The engine behind Goodyear’s growth, the ballast for its progress, are the plans and policies that the city’s management is working hard to introduce and maintain. “The economic drivers for Goodyear are what we refer to as our ‘pillars of opportunity,’ ” Gary explains. “Industry is one, of course, and tourism is another.”
On the topic of tourism, Gary cites the recent opening of new lodging that are reporting a 70 percent occupancy rate. “And that’s in spite of the pandemic,” she adds.
Goodyear has seen a growth spurt in its medical industry, as well. Five new, award-winning residency programs are attracting aspiring physicians and medical staff from throughout the U.S. What’s more, the city’s old Palm Valley Cinema is now part of a major adaptive reuse project that converted it into a class-A medical office space. It now claims 100 percent occupancy.
Another key factor in the city’s development is its infrastructure. “If we want to continue to have a high quality of life here, we realize we have to focus our efforts on roads, power and, as a major priority, public safety. In fact, toward that goal, we’re building two brand-new fire stations in Goodyear. We’re also building a water treatment facility that’s currently under construction. With the level of growth we’re experiencing, we want to make sure we can provide our residents with an adequate water supply.”
The big picture
With so many good things happening in Goodyear, Gary says it always helps to pull back from the details and look at the big picture.
“We’ve been talking about reasons why people are gravitating here and making it their home,” she continues. “But one of the main ones is that Goodyear is beautiful. Out here in the west Valley, we have this rustic beauty with spectacular mountain views. Besides that, it’s affordable, accessible, safe, and it offers a great quality of life. Those are some of the reasons more than 90 percent of our residents annually rate us very highly as a place to live and work, and why we’re continuing to grow.”
Story: Bruce Farr
Photos: Mark Lipczynski