A boomtown is a community that experiences sudden and rapid population and economic growth. The growth is normally attributed to the nearby discovery of a precious resource such as gold, silver, or oil, although the term can also be applied to communities growing very rapidly for different reasons, such as a proximity to a major metropolitan area, huge construction project, attractive climate, or popular attraction.
The Gold rush of the American Southwest is the most famous example of boomtown creation, as towns would seemingly sprout up from the desert around what was thought to be valuable gold mining country. In the late 19th century and the early 20th century boomtowns called mill towns would quickly arise due to sudden expansions in the timber industry that would last for a decade or so. Fort McMurray in Canada is a modern-day example of a resource-generated boomtown, as extraction of nearby oilsands requires a vast amount of employees.
Boomtowns are typically characterized as "overnight expansions" in both population and money as people stream into the community for high-paying jobs, mining prospects, attractive amenities or climate, or other opportunities. Typically, newcomers are drawn by high salaries; meanwhile, numerous indirect businesses develop to cater to workers often eager to spend their large paychecks. Often, boomtowns are the site of both economic prosperity and negative social disruption as the local culture and infrastructure struggles to accommodate the waves of new residents.
Boomtowns are typically extremely dependent on the single activity or resource that is causing the expansion (e.g. nearby mine, mill or resort), and when the resources are depleted or the resource economy undergoes a “bust” (e.g. catastrophic resource price collapse), boomtowns can often decrease in size as fast as they initially grew. Sometimes, all or nearly the entire population can desert the town, resulting in a ghost town.
This can often be on a planned basis. Mining companies nowadays will create a temporary community to service a mine-site, building all the accommodation shops and services, and then remove it as the resource is worked out.