Gilbert is a young, affluent community in central Arizona. Incorporated on July 6, 1920, Gilbert is a relatively new community that has seen tremendous growth during the past two decades.
In 1902, the Arizona Eastern Railway asked for donations of right of way in order to establish a rail line between Phoenix and Florence. A rail siding was established on property owned by William "Bobby" Gilbert. The siding, and the town that sprung up around it, eventually became known as Gilbert. Gilbert was a prime farming community, fueled by the construction of the Roosevelt Dam and the Eastern and Consolidated Canals in 1911. It remained an agriculture town for many years, and was known as the "Hay Capital of the World" until the late 1920s. Gilbert began to take its current shape during the 1970s when the Town Council approved a strip annexation that encompassed 53 square miles of county land. Although the population was only 1,971 in 1970 the Council realized that Gilbert would eventually grow and develop much like the neighboring communities of Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler. This proved to be a farsighted decision as Gilbert positioned itself for growth in the 1980s and beyond
Gilbert has experienced a rapid transition from a historically agriculture-based community to an urban center and suburb in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. In the last two decades, Gilbert has grown at a pace unparalleled by most communities in the United States, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to over 138,000 in January 2003. As Gilbert has grown, the community has recognized the need to develop a strong, diverse economy while preserving its highly desirable quality of life.