Fountain’s motto, Pure Colorado, says it all. “The motto truly matches the city,” says Economic Development Manager Kimberly Bailey. “We are pure Colorado. When you come here you will actually live what you envision: Colorado lifestyle, Colorado views, and Pure Colorado experiences.”
The Front Range community of 29,000 boasts a small town feel, while simultaneously enjoying access to the services that the surrounding valley, with a population of 100,000, provides. “All of these amenities just layer onto the location itself, onto the vistas, the opportunities, and the quality of life you experience here,” Mrs. Bailey remarks.
Several major rankings agree. This year alone, NerdWallet named Fountain the number one City on the Rise in Colorado and one of top 20 Best Places for Young Families in the state. “So we have two great accolades back to back,” Mrs. Bailey points out. “We are really starting to gain recognition for what we have to offer and new development traction.”
Indeed, the city’s growth rate has been nothing short of remarkable, reaching a high of 15 percent annually in the early 2000s and levelling off to 8 percent after the recession, which is still impressive. And the numbers are on the rise again, with current forecasts predicting a return to 12 to 15 percent growth soon after 2015. “We are already beginning to experience a gain in development activity, to what it was before the great recession occurred,” Mrs. Bailey reports. “So we are very much on an accelerated growth path, compared to the rest of the nation or state.”
Interestingly, Fountain almost had a very different path from its current one. The historical city was designated to become the capital of Colorado – until a massively destructive 1888 train wreck and subsequent explosion, termed “The Blast,” derailed the state’s selection for the community. Denver swooped in to become the capital as Fountain recovered from the disaster. As time passed, the city grew in the classic Front Range pattern, thriving agriculturally and encapsulating all Pure Colorado had to offer – outdoor recreation, stunning mountain views, and a way of life.
Like most communities along the Front Range, Fountain has moved on from its agricultural roots, embracing business opportunities and growing economically. Today, the city has made it a priority to be “very pro-business,” explains Mrs. Bailey. “We have gotten very creative with adjusting our policies.” For instance, Fountain has designed a special task force to support developer and investor interests looking to build or expand in the city. Most notably, this cuts out the hurdles and headaches commonly associated with new development’s need of accurate information. “Once a site plan is submitted, we will bring everyone that impacts a project together to make sure all the questions are answered for that developer or investor,” Mrs. Bailey explains. In many other cities, “you have to go to [multiple places] to get all the answers that you need, but we bring them all together at one table. That is one way that we try to differentiate ourselves as being very business friendly.”
The city government also works to connect newcomers to other members of the local business community in an effort to create “synergistic business opportunities.” A cost of living that is 4 percent below the national average also helps businesses – and their employees – find a successful foothold in Fountain. “That’s a great attractor for living and establishing a business in our community,” Mrs. Bailey points out.
Indeed, Fountain has a variety of industries that have established a strong foothold. With four military bases nearby, one of the community’s largest sectors is military-related services. “We have a huge emphasis on our military partners. The military provides an unprecedented source of funding to ensure an excellent education system and we try to make sure that we have services to support soldiers and their families.” Furthermore, “we have taken that growing asset and been able to expand upon it with adjunct business development and industrial manufacturing. We are trying to broaden our business landscape to make sure we are providing the best of both worlds to our diverse community in a holistic manner.”
The city also has experienced growth in a range of niche manufacturing, including plastic injection molds and composite manufacturing. One uniquely identifiable, stand-out business is the Pikes Peak International Raceway, a premier motorsports facility and major tourist draw. The city is looking to partner and expand on the raceway’s automotive focus, not only for the community but as a greater benefit to the region, and State of Colorado. “We are trying to work with that owner to really bring a bigger landscape of automotive services and entertainment attraction into our fold,” Mrs. Bailey explains.
Sustainability is another key municipality focus – and one that is very much in keeping with Fountain’s Pure Colorado vision. “That is actually one of our mission statements that we have as a municipality,” says Mrs. Bailey. The city encourages alternative energy businesses, as in solar and wind farms, to settle in the vicinity and is actively exploring any initiative “that has to do with the recyclability of water or of natural resources.” The city of Fountain also boasts its very own electric company, which is quite rare, with rates that are “substantially lower than you will pay in a lot of other communities and are on track to decrease in 2015.”
Fountain’s prime location is making all of these developments possible. “We are on the southern cusp of Colorado Springs, which is the second largest city in the state. That puts us in a great regionally accessible location.” The area’s infrastructure is also a definite plus with well established railway and highway infrastructure. “These two physical assets – proximity and infrastructure – will naturally lend us an opportunity of great long-term growth potential.”
The community also has plenty of land available for expansion. “It is always nice and rare for a business to come in and see a clean slate,” Mrs. Bailey points out. “A business doesn’t always want to invest in a land parcel that has a lot of building capital infrastructure that they would have to incur costs to remove.” From industrial installations to hotels, Fountain’s land is ideal for a broad range of uses and business development interests.
With so much growth – and available land – there is a substantial amount of new home construction taking place in Fountain. “We are seeing a really big residential boom in our community,” Mrs. Bailey reports, and the residential push is, in turn, bringing in new retail development. The newest major development is a one million plus square foot Sam’s Club and Walmart project set to open in late 2015, expected to bring with it a lot of new commercial businesses to service the community.
Fountain’s historic Olde Town has been specifically targeted for revitalization efforts going forward. “As with many cities in the USA, a lot of development investment has left downtowns,” Mrs. Bailey explains. “So in early 2014 we rallied the business community to develop an Olde Town Revitalization Plan and targeted funding alternatives to bring new investment back into that area.” In particular, the city is looking to attract new residential developments, as well as implement capital improvement projects to enhance the aesthetics of downtown. The culmination of these efforts will improve the heart of community gathering where residents enjoy annual festivals and street fairs as well as parades, ceremonies, car shows, farmers markets, and a piece of its historical past.
The Olde Town revitalization is putting “a new emphasis on entrepreneurialism,” Mrs. Bailey adds, with innovative solutions for old spaces being encouraged. “We feel that there are some historic properties in that area that we wouldn’t just want removed, but we know that we need to collaborate to readapt them to new uses,” she explains. The city has also identified a need for hotels in the region and is actively working to tap that open market, as a way to complement growth projections at the Pikes Peak International Raceway and destination retail services in Fountain. “We are targeting this vehicle as a way of bringing more people into our community to experience all Fountain has to offer.”
And this is only the beginning. “Fountain has a lot of great things in the pipeline. We are experiencing positive record growth and still forecasting it going forward. A top priority for the future will be maintaining our top notch service to residents and building upon our strong infrastructure for new businesses, while continuing to focus efforts on revitalizing downtown. “We want to really build upon the Pure Colorado assets we have to best serve our growing community.”
No matter how much new development Fountain attracts, the community is determined to maintain the assets that have made the city so attractive to past, present, and future residents. “We are trying to preserve our landscape as well as accommodate new growth and development,” Mrs. Bailey explains. “A lot of times when developments come in they really change the integrity or the fabric of a community. The business and resident communities of Fountain are determined not to let this happen. As a result, our city will always be Pure Colorado.”