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This southeast Valley community for years has been among the nation’s fastest-growing municipalities, now numbers almost 200,000 residents as it matures into another level of growth.

While residential growth has been closing in on build-out the past couple of years, the town (don’t call it a city) has seen its first hospitals, freeway and regional shopping center open.

Those hospitals – three have opened in the past two years – are seen as a potential cluster for the health-care and wellness businesses.

Attracting these industries is viewed as a way to boost Gilbert’s economy and education levels, which are both among the highest for Valley communities.

Gilbert is family-friendly for a reason. About 70 percent of the households are married with a child under 18, far below the national average.

It’s not surprising that a great premium has been placed on education. Thirty-one of the Gilbert Public Schools’ 39 schools were labelled as “excelling” by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). http://www.azed.gov/

The town is served by Chandler-Gilbert Community College, noted for its outreach to the business and civic communities, as well as Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus, located at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on the town’s eastern edge.

Formerly, Williams Air Force Base, is generating more employment as well as adding passenger-plane service to about a dozen markets.

An extensive parks system is highlighted by Cosmo Dog Park, ranked as the top dog park in the nation by DogFancy magazine, and the Riparian Preserve, which has earned Audubon Society honors.

The town is adding retail and restaurants, although some of the most popular eateries, such as Joe’s Real BBQ, the Farmhouse and Joe’s Fresh Grill, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, feature a rural ambience.

Every fall, Gilbert Days, complete with rodeo and parade, celebrates the town’s rural and Western roots.

While 1,000 residents per month has been a steady growth rate, Gilbert still rolls out the small-town welcome. New residents are honored at quarterly Newcomers Socials by town and civic leaders.

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