NoCo Oil Find Could Fuel Energy Business Park
The communities of Brighton and Fort Lupton in southern Weld County are working together to create a plan to develop an energy business park. KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Northern Colorado Business Report Publisher Jeff Nuttall about what’s behind the activity.
O’Toole: Before we get to what’s in the works, Jeff, what initially spurred these conversations?
Nuttall: Well, Erin, what we know is that companies whose products and services support the oil and gas and energy industries are setting up shop along Interstate 85 between Brighton and Fort Lupton. That area has been nicknamed the “Energy Corridor.” After businesses like Vestas Wind Systems and Halliburton located in the area, companies that serve the industry, like Select Energy Services and ThruBit Logging Solutions, which are both out of Texas, wanted to locate there as well.
O’Toole: Makes a lot of sense. I’m curious why it’s desirable for them to build new in that location -- rather than, say, to move into existing space?
Nuttall: Because the area has become so popular that there is very little existing space to be had. Since May, 123,000 square feet of industrial space has been purchased in the area. The estimated industrial vacancy rate in the area is just 3 percent. Officials at the Brighton Economic Development Corporation have as many as five more companies interested in the region, and there just isn’t enough existing space to accommodate them.
O’Toole: What other factors are drawing companies to the Energy Corridor?
Nuttall: These new companies like the easy access to Interstate 25, and that the communities nearby are growing so quickly. They also like the fact that they’re right in the middle between Denver and Greeley. That gives them easy access to Denver International Airport and all of the oil and gas activity going on throughout Weld County is obviously attractive as well.
O’Toole: Definitely. Just this week we heard there could be as much as 1.5 billion barrels of oil located in the Wattenberg field in Weld County -- I’m sure that’s got to be a major factor, too.
Nuttall: Absolutely. The rush of activity in the area first began two years ago, when EOG Resources, an oil and gas company out of Houston, discovered an oil well they nicknamed “Jake,” which poured out almost 700 barrels of oil a day back in November 2009. Since then, the area has just been a magnet for oil and gas companies, and the attraction of those companies has created a lot of jobs in the area. According to the Mayor of Fort Lupton, Tommy Holton, the discovery of the Niobrara shale formation was a huge factor in the economic development of that city. He said that as many as 1,000 jobs have been created there since Jake was discovered.
O’Toole: Certainly in this economy, folks just can’t get enough job creation. Are the other companies moving to the area actually creating jobs as well?
Nuttall: They certainly are. Vestas opened a production factory in Brighton in July 2010 and plans to open a second production facility by the end of this year. Between the two facilities, 1,300 production jobs are expected to be created. Select Energy is employing 415 people in its Colorado office, and ThruBit has created 20 jobs in the state.
O’Toole: So how much space is available for this potential energy business park?
Nuttall: Between Brighton and Fort Lupton, there are almost 3,100 acres that could be developed. Officials in both cities agree that a developer is most likely going to be needed to create a master plan for the park. But so far, development has taken place as companies come along. Mayor Holton described it as “helter-skelter,” but in order to organize all of the activity into a plan, they are certainly going to need the help of a professional with a strategy.