Editor's note: The population in the Phoenix metro area has exploded over the past decade, with waves of new construction spilling into formerly rural communities. This two-part series examines the cause of this desert bloom and its effect on local real estate markets. (See Part 2.) Gilbert, Ariz., a burgeoning suburb of Phoenix, was once known as the "Hay Capital of the World." Now it is one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation. Its hay days are over and its heyday is here – in a very big way. In the 1970s, the Gilbert Town Council annexed 53 square miles of county land to give the community some room to grow. The town's population was 1,971 in 1970, and by 1980 it was home to 5,717 residents. Today, the town's Chamber of Commerce reports that 1,000 new residents are moving to Gilbert each month. "They've told us it is because of our 'small-town' friendliness, great schools, pristine neighborhoods and a thriving business community," according to the town's Chamber o...
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