March 9, 2005
Maybe it’s all the sun, palm trees, golf courses, wide streets and desert space. Or maybe it’s the relatively affordable housing, low taxes and rising job creation.
It might even be something as simple as most everything being so shiny and new.
Whatever the reason, there is little economic stress in Gilbert and Scottsdale, according to recent study by American City Business Journals, the nation’s largest publisher of metropolitan business newspapers.
Gilbert ranked fourth and Scottsdale 10th on a list of the least stressful communities with a population of 100,000 or more. Hartford, Conn., with its high poverty level and old or vacant housing, is the most stressful of the 245 areas ranked.
The company used a sevenpart formula to rate socioeconomic stress using raw data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. The formula analyzed factors that can affect any city’s stability, such as poverty, unemployment, insufficient education and vacant housing.
Naperville, Ill., about 30 miles west of Chicago with high incomes, low unemployment and stable families, was named the least stressful large city. Livonia, Mich., and Overland Park, Kan., also suburbs, ranked second and third, respectively.
The East Valley’s showing on the list did not surprise economic development ex- perts or most of its residents.
"I’m doing all right," said 23-year-old Scottsdale resident Jeff DeFoyd, an assistant meat manager at Sunflower Market who was relaxing in a parking lot while talking with a coworker. "I have no problems. I’m happy."
Mike Bernard, who came to Gilbert from California, said he enjoys the smallertown feel. "People here at least talk to you," he said. "The neighbors are more friendly."
Bernard, a business owner, added that an "awesome" business climate makes life less stressful for job seekers.
But Judy Mischel, who came to Gilbert from a smaller town in Washington state, said even supermarket lines in Gilbert felt rushed when she first moved in.
"Back home everything was a little slower," she said, adding after six years of living in Gilbert, she’s grown used to the pace.
Gilbert Economic Development director Greg Tilque said the study points to the quality of life the town has always touted.
Some experts interviewed by American City Business Journals said suburban cities have an advantage over older, established cities such as Hartford and Newark, N.J., because they’re in a newer stage of development that makes them less stressful.
DeFoyd said the only sketchy area of his city is "in south Scottsdale when you start getting into Tempe."
"I live in north Scottsdale," he said. "I’m not going to see any of that."
His co-worker Frederick Douglas, a married 33-yearold with three children, said he compares Scottsdale to Anchorage, Alaska, where he lived for 10 years before moving here in August.
"It’s about the same as far as rent, jobs and cars," he said. "I got a job immediately. I love it. I ain’t going anywhere."
Stress factors How they were ranked: Some of the factors included in American City Business Journals study were:
• Percentage of people living below the federal poverty level
• Ratio of households with annual incomes below $25,000 to those with incomes above $100,000
• Unemployment rate
• Percentage of adults who didn’t graduate from high school
• Percentage of vacant homes (not including vacation homes)