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City got its start from cotton, tires

By Darryl Henning-associate editor
West Valley View

Spring 2003

Goodyear got its start in 1916 when the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. bought 36,000 acres of land for growing cotton to be used in the production of tire cords. The land stretched from Chandler to the east, the Estrella Mountains to the south, the White Tank Mountains to the west and modern-day Youngtown and Sun City to the north.

Egyptian long-fiber cotton was planted on much of the land, and the main town for the development briefly was known as Egypt (because of the variety of cotton). But the name Goodyear soon was applied to both the community and the cotton ranch.

After suffering from a drop in cotton prices, Goodyear recovered economically in the 1940s when World War II brought industrial employment to the area. Litchfield Naval Air Facility and Goodyear Aircraft Corp. were the first industrial employers to arrive in the area, employing some 7,500 people to manufacture parts for Consolidated and Lockheed Aircraft corporations.

In the summer of 1941, Goodyear Aircraft began construction on a large aircraft component factory, where the Phoenix Goodyear Airport is today. During the war years, the company supplied a myriad of components for war planes including the B-29 Superfortress, B-24 Liberator bomber, P-61 Black Widow fighter and various land machines and equipment, including hundreds of millions of tires for aircraft and land vehicles, life rafts, rubber pontoons for bridges and 132 Navy lighter-than-air ships for coastal defense.

On Nov. 19, 1946, Goodyear incorporated as a city just hours before neighboring Avondale did likewise. The aircraft plant continued to operate well into the post-war years, building blimps and eventually producing components for an array of military missiles.

The Goodyear Aircraft facility subsequently evolved into Goodyear Aerospace and later was sold to Loral Defense Systems. By acquisition and merger, that entity has evolved into the Lockheed Martin Corp., which still maintains a division in Goodyear today.

The Navy eventually sold the airport to the city of Phoenix in 1968, and it has become Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

Goodyear and Avondale clashed over the annexation of land during the 1980s, and the state Legislature had to step in to resolve those disagreements.

Also in the 1980s, what was left of the holdings of Goodyear Farms, about 10,000 acres in modern day Avondale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park and unincorporated areas of Maricopa County, were sold to SunCor Development Co. SunCor has developed much of the acreage in those areas, with much sill remaining.