Crowd of people on the street.

It’s no surprise Marana is growing. Just look at the expanding municipal complex, multiple housing developments, and the real estate market throughout the Tucson area. But now official census numbers can be attached to that growth. 

Although Marana’s new official population count is in line with predicted growth, the latest census results include a number of important details. Marana’s official population now stands at 51,908, up from 34,961 in 2010 for a 48.5% growth. This growth rate is more than four times as high as the Arizona average of 11.9% in the same time frame. 

“In all honesty, not that much was surprising from this latest census,” said Heath Vescovi-Chiordi, assistant to the town manager for the Town of Marana. “We saw a huge jump in our permits, even during the pandemic. We saw a massive influx of single-family residence permits, and with that, we knew our population was increasing rapidly. We’ve been on that trajectory for the last five to 10 years. So when we saw the census numbers, they were actually a bit lower than we were anticipating.” 

Vescovi-Chiordi says the Town was assuming a population closer to 54,000, and says the population may still be higher than the official number due to the difficulty of taking the census during a pandemic. On average, Marana sees around 100 single-family residence permits per month these days. Over the last decade, this resulted in 6,795 new housing units in the town. 

This has also resulted in demographic shifts in Marana: The Hispanic population increased from 22% to 25% of Marana’s total population. Black residents increased from 2% to 3%. Asian residents stayed the same at 4% and Native American residents also stayed the same at 1%. Those identifying as two or more races increased from 2% to 5%. Residents identifying as white was the only race category that decreased in percentage; in 2010, Marana was 69% white, and that number is now down to 63%. 

“With Arizona being a hotspot for people to move from throughout the country, I think it’s just part of the migration pattern for a lot of people,” Vescovi-Chiordi said. “And there are a lot of reasons: economic development, good housing opportunities, lovely quality of life and more.”

As Marana grows, it receives more state-shared revenues thanks to a 1972 voter initiative. These dollars—from state income-tax payments—are based on a city or town’s population. Breaching the 50,000 mark also registers Marana as  “entitlement community,” and means the town can receive Community Development Block Grants directly, rather than having them distributed through Pima County. 

“As we continue to grow, we will see more state shared revenues coming our way, which is always great. They can be used for infrastructure like road maintenance and economic development,” Vescovi-Chiordi said. “We don’t exactly know what those numbers will look like because this is all so fresh, and we’re still under contract for Pima County to act as a pass-through until fiscal year 2023. So we wouldn’t see new, direct monies until fiscal year 2024. But we’re excited about them, because those monies are for community development projects that can help lower socio-economic households.” 

Although these are some substantial changes, Vescovi-Chiordi says this census data does not change Marana’s immediate plans. The Town’s 2040 General Plan was built with these growth trajectories in mind. 

“Having this new data and more people doesn’t necessarily affect our planning in a significant way, but we’re always making tweaks,” Vescovi-Chiordi said. “It really just helps us identify where the growth is happening and how much growth is happening, so we can plan accordingly with natural resource management, planning and zoning, and more.” 

Overall, Arizona gained more than 750,000 people over the past decade. Pima County alone gained more than 63,000 residents. This latest census indicated Pima County’s population grew 6.8% over the last decade, which is nearly half the Arizona average and more than five times smaller than Marana’s growth. 

“I think it’s always important to say thank you to the census workers who did an amazing job during a pandemic, to go out and get all these numbers,” Vescovi-Chiordi said.