Jackie Meck

Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck took a look at the past, present and future during his recent State of the City address. (Photo courtesy city of Buckeye)

With only 5% of its 640 square miles developed, the city of Buckeye’s room for growth was a theme of Mayor Jackie Meck’s recent State of the City address.

And if projections come true, the city’s current population of 80,000 will reach 1.5 to 1.8 million residents in the next 50 to 100 years. That projected growth is something for which the city is preparing, Meck assured during the April 10 Palo Verde Energy Education Center talk.

Currently, as he summarized, “the state of the city of Buckeye is excellent.” 

“I don’t consider myself a politician. I consider myself a resident of Buckeye that wants to see Buckeye grow,” Meck said, tracing back his lineage in the fifth fastest-growing city in the nation among those with populations greater than 50,000 residents.

Despite heavy forecasts for growth, Meck and his colleagues in City Council are first planning for the more immediate future.

“Our focus for this year is to build on our successes, stay strong and continue improving the quality of life for our residents,” Meck said.

Estimating that 90% of workers travel east for jobs, he said having residents “live, work and play in Buckeye” is the city’s foremost goal.

And like Buckeye’s room for progress was a theme, also were the city’s past successes.

Already since the turn of the century, he noted, the city has increased its population by more than 12 times, built more than 1,100 miles of new roads, hired 400 additional employees, and increased spending from $8.5 million to $257 million.

“Employers and retail businesses are taking notice, too,” Meck said of the city’s growth thus far. “Attracting good jobs to the city is one of our highest priorities.”

More recent developments Meck cited include Cardinal Glass, Parker Fasteners, Arizona Public Service (APS), Bio-Gro and Arizona Water Company.

Cardinal Glass, which currently has a facility in the city, will soon expand, leading to the hiring of 150 to 200 employees by this time next year, he said.

Additionally, Parker Fasteners – a manufacturer of precision parts for aerospace and industrial applications – is moving into an existing building near Baseline Road and Highway 85, though expansion plans will ramp up operations and it will ultimately employ more than 100 people.

APS is building a regional service center at Baseline Road and State Route 85 that will employ more than 200 people, and it also has several electrical projects underway including a new substation at the SR85 site to be energized in 2020.

Fertilizer manufacturer Bio-Gro purchased land near Johnson and Baseline roads. And Arizona Water Company will occupy space at Sundance Center.

Also in the works but unable to be disclosed, he said, are a vehicle testing company and four more companies.

The city is poised for more companies in the advanced manufacturing and technology industry, Meck noted later.

At the intersection of Watson and Yuma Roads, Meck said, in the works are new hotels, coffee shops, retail stores, restaurants and a medical center. Over at McDowell Road and Verrado Way Barro’s Pizza, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Verizon, a dentist and a veterinarian are all either in the works or open already. More retailers or service providers will be disclosed later.

“We know our residents want and need to shop in their own community, close to their homes, so we’re focused on attracting all types of new business and retail opportunities to the city,” Meck said.

Also heavily discussed by Meck was Buckeye Municipal Airport, which now boasts the services – including providing jet fuel to customers – of aircraft repair and maintenance company Performance Air Group. Skydive Buckeye recently purchased a second aircraft, Meck added, as well as hired additional jump instructors. And Northwest Sky Sports, which provides glider flights, is also now at the airport, along with new tenant and helicopter operation Spur-N-Rotor, Meck added.

With the airport being 700 acres owned by Buckeye, according to Meck, it could eventually be a “major commercial industrial site.”

“Did you know that if we build (the airport and its surrounding land) like we can and should and would and could in the future, that it will be a major airport, because we’re outside of the Sky Harbor influence?” Meck asked the crowd.

On a related note, Meck thanked Copperstate Fly-In, which partnered with the city for the Buckeye Air Fair earlier this year. Meck said it was the third largest fly-in in the country, with 30,000 attendees, and even more projected for next year.

Other brief topics were I-11, which Meck called a “big thing” he hopes will be expedited. And on housing, he said more than 200 single-family residential permits on average have been issued per month in 2019. He also noted strides made at the Legislature regarding the eradication of the salt cedars along the Gila River. Again on businesses, he mentioned Snap Fitness’ renovation of a historic 1930 building, which it recently moved into.

“With so many people moving to Buckeye, we are proactively working to ensure our infrastructure is operation properly and can grow with us,” he said.

Last year, Meck continued, Buckeye launched its first official five-year capital improvement program (CIP) to help identify and prioritize infrastructure needs.

Thus far, he said the Earl Edgar Recreational Facility has new lights and an irrigation system on the sports fields and upgraded restrooms and basketball courts; downtown Buckeye has new sidewalks; the design concept for the Tartesso Fire Station is complete, with plans to be finalized this summer and construction projected to conclude in late 2020; the Roosevelt Improvement District has water and sewer lines, paving, and traffic signals at Van Buren and Roosevelt streets; and Skyline Park has new miles of trails, expanded outdoor classes, and a 7% increase in attendance from 2017 to 2018, with more than 300,000 people visiting in 2018.

A new, state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot police evidence building is also being designed for Historic Downtown Buckeye, and it will leave room for growth. Sundance Park is also in the works for expansion, and thanks to resident input the city will build desired amenities as funding is secured, he said.

But Buckeye’s largest CIP, he said, is the $94 million Broadway Road Water Campus. Work started earlier this year on a new water transmission line along Apache Road. And when the first phase is complete by 2020, it will produce better water quality, he added. It will expand as demand requires, and be fully operational by 2022.

“We have our work cut out for us in the coming years. We’ve also done a tremendous job getting Buckeye to where we are today – on the road to a successful future,” he said. “I am confident this City Council and the Buckeye city management have the passion, dedication and commitment to continue moving us in the right direction – building and improving our city services, while preserving our heritage in the process.”

“The Buckeye in my day was great. The Buckeye now is fantastic. The Buckeye of tomorrow is destined to be incredible. And as always, Buckeye is open for business,” he concluded.