Building a new city from scratch could cost around 20 billion dollars (ref [this article]) and could take around 50 years to reach a population of a few million (ref this post). If one had a large enough piece of land, what would the first steps be to build a new small town from scratch, with the following conditions?
- zero funding
- no underground resources such as gold, oil, water, minerals
- the land is a flat desert
- the closest road connecting the land to other towns is passing right by its side
- the closest town is 40 km away (around 40 mins drive)
- the closest airport is 300 km away (around 5 hours drive)
- no nearby water body
- no surrounding mountains
I can imagine the first step is having a resource that will attract people of one of the following categories: investors, tourists, residents, employees.
If I had a resource that attracted investors, it would be the most accelerating step for the process, because it brings in funds to do other things. Examples of underground resources are already discarded based on my conditions above.
Tourist attraction examples also bring in funds, albeit slower than investor funds. Examples: a natural forest, hiking trails, camping area, religious centers. Note that starting off with zero funds restricts options such as building something like Disneyland.