Maricopa is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. In 2000, when it was still a town, the population clocked in at just over 1,000 residents. By 2010 that number had exploded to over 43,000, according to U.S. Census data.

With as fast as the city is growing, the number of health care services has been slow to catch up. Banner Health plans to change that. A major primary care center for the community is expected to break ground this summer. The project involves an area of more than 40,000 square feet and will accommodate as many as 12 physicians to begin with, a spokesman for Banner Health said.

"The people of Maricopa don't have the physicians they need," Bill Byron said. "We have been discussing with them for a number of years what might be needed. This really is a culmination of those discussions." The health center is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-2012. When it does, the clinic will offer primary care with a handful of specialists who will come in on assigned days. "When you look at that many people, the first need is primary care," Byron said. "As the population grows, we will bring in additional specialists." Maricopa, which sits approximately 25 miles south of Ahwatukee Foothills, is identified as a "medically underserved area" and a "primary care health professional shortage area" by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Right now, the closest major health center for Maricopa residents is Chandler Regional Medical Center, about 20 miles from the city center. Some travel to Ahwatukee Foothills for services, including to Ahwatukee Pediatrics. "I have a lot of people that come from Maricopa," Dr. Mary Jo Kutler said. "The growing community would greatly benefit from an increased number of primary care physicians."

The estimated economic impact through construction and eventually employment at the center will total $129.9 million over the next 10 years. Banner Health expects to create 30 jobs during the first phase and increase that number to 65 within five years.

"A significant number of people that will be involved in construction are likely to be residents in and around area, so the economic impact of construction will be immediate," Byron said. "We are aware of the high rates (of foreclosure) because of the economy. Over time we're confident that we will see great improvement." Banner Health is purchasing 11.13 acres of property in the Wells retail center at the intersection of Alan Stephens Parkway and Porter Road. Plans include expanding the center to more than 80,000 square feet and employing 18 physicians.

"This is a tremendously important development that will bring much-needed health care services to people living in and around Maricopa," Maricopa Mayor Anthony Smith said. "Today, people in Maricopa have to drive a fair distance to reach primary care services, so we're thrilled to be working with Banner on a project that will improve the health of our community." The city will contribute to the project in the form of public improvement assistance and grant funding.

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