Were you born and raised in Arizona or were you, as many of our fellow Arizonans, born in a different state? For a lot of us, Arizona is a destination.

While most would think, with reasons, that California is a major source of immigrants to the 48th state, a lot of the newcomers are actually from states like Illinois, New York, or Texas. Our state population has grown to more than 7 million since the last census — an increase of 11.9% over the last 10 years according to US Census data. While this growth may have slowed during the past two years due to the pandemic, it has remained steady and is poised to come roaring back. 

One of the significant effects of the pandemic was to redefine the relationship between employer and employee. High demand, remote work, and the lack of human contacts during quarantine have contributed to another type of migration — away from the office. While a lot of people in California are now looking east for new opportunities; for a tech-savvy man from Malvern, Pennsylvania, this meant looking west.

As a computer security specialist, Nicolas Lawson decided to rely on his skills and expertise to figure out where his family’s new adventures would take them. After joining the Air Force, Nick worked as a military contractor in and around the Middle East. Gathering publicly available data from all locations in the United States, he conducted a deep dive into real estate, school rankings, student test scores, crime data, weather patterns, and other factors. Organizing the data by zip code, he ranked and filtered his list to come up with his own “Best Places” to live in the USA.

First on the list, Colorado Springs looked promising. Located in the foothills of the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs offers views of Pikes Peak, the highest summit in the range. It is home to the US Air Force Academy, serves as the headquarter for 24 national sports governing bodies, a United States Olympic Training Center, and a thriving high-tech and defense-based economy.

The second entry, Salt Lake City, is very similar. Located on the eastern edge of the Great Basin, it also offers views of the mountains but is mostly known for being the capital of the state of Utah and the seat of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. With a history of mining, railroad transportation, and trade, the city’s economy is now a diversified service-oriented economy based on banking, retail, telecom, and high-tech industries.

Reviewing his findings, Nick realized that a pattern was emerging: communities located in the foothills of mountain ranges appear to be associated with higher incomes, better schools, lower crime rates, and a steady real estate market; all factors which would provide fertile soil for a young family to plant some roots.

After flying to Colorado Springs to explore, Nick realized, however, that he had missed one critical element in his selection: Colorado can be cold in December. The same can be said of the Great Basin in winter. Luckily, this is not a problem for the next candidate on his list — Ahwatukee, another foothills community.  

Designed to be an urban village, Ahwatukee was perfect for the Lawson family. Schools are good and within walking distance, crime is low. With prime real estate within walking distance of parks, hiking trails, shopping, and entertainment, it checked all the boxes on their wish list. While summers can be hot in Arizona, this family is well suited for the climate having lived and worked in Qatar.

And, as we all know, winter is not a problem in Arizona!

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