It’s lunchtime in Gila Bend, but the 30 or so people lined up at Little Italy for pizza and subs aren’t the typical summer visitors passing through town on their way to San Diego or the beaches of Mexico. And with outside temps nearing 110 degrees, they aren’t the snowbirds that flock to the desert town 75 miles west of downtown Phoenix every winter to enjoy the warm weather. Reflecting a dramatic economic shift taking place in the town of about 2,000 residents, nearly everyone in the restaurant is wearing a shirt labeled with a construction company or solar company involved with one of the three power plants under way in or near the town.
About 850 construction workers have descended on Gila Bend to work on the plants this summer, and about double that number are expected next year as the largest alternative-energy project in the state, the Solana Generating Station, ramps up construction.
Solar-power plants and wind farms are popping up across Arizona, but Gila Bend is uniquely positioned to benefit because of its intense sunshine and town zoning policy enacted last year that fast-tracks solar plants, saving companies time and money in their permitting.
Read More: Solar-power plants booming in Gila Bend via The Arizona Republic