Economic Development

Stephanie Paige Ogburn/Jim Hill / KUNC

Colorado's economic fortunes are often told as a success story. Statewide unemployment was 3.5 percent in December 2015, and, according to the latest Economic Datebook report [pdf] from the Kansas City Federal Reserve, employment growth is 'broad based across industries.'

Yet the Fed's February report also shows that the state's recovery from the recession, and its economy in general, is uneven. The rising tide of Colorado's economy is leaving some boats stranded on the shore. 

Andrew Cooper / SMPSP

When Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman hears about new television shows being set in Colorado, he typically doesn’t bat an eye.

He knows that being “set” in Colorado – at least on the small screen – rarely equates to being “filmed” in Colorado. Like the new Chuck Lorre sitcom. The Big Bang Theory creator’s yet-to-be-named new show, along with Parks & Rec star Adam Scott’s new project Buds, will be set in a Colorado marijuana shop.

“They didn’t even call us,” Zuckerman said. “And the reason is, shows like this are done in a studio… They’re set up for it in LA, and they’re set up for it in New York. It’s more cost effective for them to do it there, even if there is a (tax) incentive.”

Courtesy of Go NoCO

Four new Northern Colorado tourist attractions – including a film center dedicated to horror movies and a Whitewater Adventure Park - will receive $86.1 million from the Regional Tourism Authority. But the work isn't over yet.

Project organizer Go NoCO was approved for the full $86.1 million it asked for from the state's tourism incentive fund. The next few steps will include "guardrails" – conditions from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in the agreement, including when certain elements need to be implemented.

"It's been a long haul," said Stacy Johnson, director of economic development for the Town of Windsor and a member of Go NoCO. "We're thankful to the state and the staff for their support and cautiously optimistic as we move forward to create this whole new tourism industry in Northern Colorado."

Emily Wilmsen / City of Fort Collins

Fort Collins' historic Trolley Barn hasn't housed working trolleys in a long time – but the time may be right to bring some new life to the old barn, said Josh Birks, City of Fort Collins Economic Health Director.

In the last few years, a variety of groups including restaurateurs and historic restoration groups have inquired about moving in. Right now, the 10,000-square-foot space is used to store city vehicles, as well as a trolley restoration project.

"There's a lot of growth going on in that area right now and a lot of potential," said Birks. "To me, that just underscores the need to get it right."

Maeve Conran / KGNU

An additional 2 ½ million people are expected to move to Colorado by 2040, the vast majority of them which are headed for the Front Range. As the population grows and cities expand, one thing will shrink: the acres devoted to agriculture and farming that surround the urban areas.

Weld County is the epicenter of urban growth and changing land use in Colorado. One of the fastest growing counties in the nation, its population grew by 40 percent since 2000 and it's projected to double in the next 25 years. At the same time, 75 percent of its 2.5 million acres is devoted to agriculture as Colorado's leading producer of sugar beet, grain, and beef cattle.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

In the shadow of the Loveland Artspace Arts Campus, a new statewide initiative to create mixed-use sites for artists in nine rural Colorado communities was unveiled by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

A first of its kind in the country, the Space to Create initiative will feature customized affordable housing/work space for artists as well as commercial space for creatively inclined organizations and businesses.

Hickenlooper announced the initiative's first site will be in Trinidad.

"To be blunt, Denver and Boulder and Fort Collins, they don't need that much help. The more rural parts of the state are still struggling and some of them have very high unemployment rates up close to 6 percent," Hickenlooper said. "So we want to try to put energy into those communities and try to make sure that their economy gets a lift as well."

Maeve Conran / KGNU

As cities in Colorado expand to accommodate a growing population, so are costs of providing services and utilities. Some communities, like Aurora, a city of 350,000 east of Denver, are reevaluating how they charge for services like water and how those costs might encourage smarter growth.

Fort Collins Old Town Square Restoration

Fort Collins is no stranger to “best of” lists, with national recognition for everything from happiest residents to most entrepreneurial businesses to fittest citizens. The latest feather for the community’s cap comes from the Smithsonian, which dubbed the city a “Place of Invention.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Which came first, Fort Collins’ enviable innovative culture, one that’s put the city in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit about inventive places, or the beer and bike industries that have helped put the city on nearly every “Best Of” list in the country? It’s a classic question.

The city’s brand is tied to beer and bikes, boasting more than 15 breweries, with 5 more in planning stages, and more than 20 businesses devoted to bicycle fabrication and manufacturing. Their successes are intertwined.

It’s a marriage that shows up everywhere in this city of 150,000, from the label of a New Belgium Brewing Company bottle of Fat Tire, to the brewery map handed out at the Fort Collins Bike Library, to the bars built of bike frames, to the beer bar that doubles as a bike shop.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

Downtown Loveland has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Historic District designation focuses on Loveland’s ties to agriculture and the railroad. Founded in 1877, the city was named after William Loveland, the president of the Colorado Central Railroad.