Located just minutes from downtown Denver, Castle Rock has transformed from a bedroom community to a prime business destination. CNNMoney recently ranked Castle Rock the 4th best small city to live in the United States, while Nerdwallet named it the #1 place to find a job in the entire state of Colorado.
“Castle Rock is a great place to live, work, and play, offering residents and business owners alike a free standing full service community,” summarizes the Vice President of Castle Rock Economic Development Marcus Notheisen. With a growing tech sector and plenty of family friendly small town charm – but all the amenities of a larger community – Castle Rock has become a hot new destination for businesses looking for an ideal place to relocate.
Take MyWedding.com for instance. The popular wedding planning website needed to find a location “that was a little more central [and] that was a great place to live and a great place to work,” says CEO Woody Pastorius. Of all the towns in America, the company chose Castle Rock.
One important draw was the fact that tech companies had already permeated the Front Range between Denver and Colorado Springs, so the infrastructure and workforce were already in place. The nearby Denver Tech Center is a well-known gathering place for .com, IT, and communications companies, but the MyWedding.com team believed that Castle Rock offered some key advantages to the more urban counterpart. Perhaps most notably, “it’s a reverse commute providing a simple drive into work every day,” Mr. Pastorius points out.
Because a large number of tech professionals have recognized the advantages of Castle Rock, MyWedding.com has access to a stellar workforce, right there in town. “We have an incredible talent pool of workers,” Mr. Notheisen says of community. “We have attracted some of the top professionals in the metro area, so we have more than our fair share of CEOs, CFOs and presidents that have worked in downtown Denver, in DTC [Denver Tech Center].” Indeed, the statistics are startling. “Ninety nine percent of our population has a high school diploma, 81 percent have a college or technology background, and 18 percent have a post graduate degree,” Mr. Notheisen reports.
MyWedding.com’s move has already paid off; since relocating to Castle Rock in 2010, the company has increased its staff from 11 to 85 and has made the inc. 500/5000 list for a fifth time. Now recognized as one of the top five wedding websites in the U.S., the company was also just acquired by Meredith Corporation last month in a landmark deal that will enable MyWedding.com to grow even larger – and continue to bring recognition to the fact that Castle Rock is an ideal location for like-minded businesses.
Digital Global Services is another well-known company that chose to pack up and move to Castle Rock. The business was based in the Washington DC area until last year, when the team decided that Castle Rock offered more in terms of business opportunities and quality of life. A slew of similar companies are following suit. “We have seen this technology cluster begin to grow,” Mr. Notheisen remarks. “[Companies] like Digital Global Services, Mywedding.com, and SmarterChaos have all come together, worked together and shared resources and grown their companies to an incredibly successful level in Castle Rock. There is a lot of talent here and there has been a synergy that has been created around that talent and shared ideas.”
Digital Global Services will be the anchor tenant in a new 50,000 square foot office building being built in downtown Castle Rock. Specially designed to suit the needs of tech companies, the building will reinforce the town’s position as a growing tech center. “It will be an opportunity for us to tap into workforce that is in the north part of Colorado Springs and the southern part of the Denver metro area,” says Mr. Notheisen. The project has just begun construction and it is anticipated that is will be fully leased before completion.
Incoming companies in all sectors will find a welcoming, business-friendly environment. “We consider ourselves partners with the businesses that are here,” says Mayor Paul Donahue. “We look for ways to help them because everything that they do in terms of expansion and development helps our residents.” Mr. Notheisen adds that, “we have a regulatory environment through the municipality that is incredibly approachable. So when you start a project in Castle Rock you get all the benefits of being in the Denver metro area, but can still have your venture be very personalized. There is not a single company in Castle Rock that does not have access to the political process, that can’t call up the mayor, contact the town manager, and speak with the Castle Rock Economic Development Council… You can get a lot of assistance. You are definitely not lost in the shuffle.”
Castle Rock’s Economic Development Council (EDC) is also hard at work to “improve the business climate, increase employment, and make it a better place to work and own a business,” says Wes King, President of Firstbank and Chair of the EDC. Helping businesses grow is a key service. “The EDC supplies a lot of opportunities to connect with fellow business people, opportunities to meet with developers, builders, folks who want to do business here in town.”
Word is out, and an increasing number of people are moving to Castle Rock to take advantage of its growing tech sector, pro-business environment, and enviable location. “We’ve got a lot of new employers coming in,” Mr. King reports. “There are a lot of start-ups, smaller high tech companies that have a lot of opportunities for growth.” In fact, the research firm Gadberry Group has named Castle Rock one of the fastest growing suburbs in the entire United States. “We’ve grown in a little over a decade from a community of 20,000 residents to just under 55,000 residents presently,” Mr. Notheisen reports.
The influx has led to several high profile development projects. A new interchange is going up on I-25 to increase interstate access and the Promenade, a 900,000 square foot Lifestyle center, is being built beside the new exit. As a “world class signature retail project designed to be another regional draw,” the new development “will attract some of the top national and regional restaurants and retailers,” Mr. Notheisen says. “It will provide more than just your typical grocery-anchored shopping center. It will provide many of the amenities that communities look for in new retail projects – emphasizing walkability and designated gathering spaces.”
Downtown is also enjoying a building boom. “We’ve got a lot of new things going on in our downtown,” says Kevin Tilson, Director of the Downtown Development Authority. “We are actively engaging developers to get involved.” In addition to the new tech-centered office building that Digital Global Services will anchor, a new mixed-use development called The Acme Water Tower Center has just been built that will include retail, office, and restaurant space. “We are starting to see people pick off the few empty pieces of land in downtown [as they] realize that things are really picking up,” Mr. Tilson observes.
These developments will bring even more activity to an already bustling downtown. In fact, Castle Rock’s downtown has long been a popular community gathering space and locals often cite it as one of their favorite things about the town. “The Castle Rock resident really identifies downtown as that community amenity that brings them all together,” Mr. Notheisen reports. “The downtown is often identified as the heart of the community, the place that captures the feeling of small town charm. It is quaint, but has modern amenities.”
From festivals like Oktoberfest to the popular Starlighting ceremony every Christmas, Castle Rock’s downtown supports a close-knit, community oriented citizenry. “We are a great place to invest money, to place your project, to tap into a professional employment base – and still have the charm of a small town community where you can be a part of events like Oktoberfest and walk down the street and really know quite a few people, but not be disconnected from the metro area,” Mr. Tilson summarizes.
And, the community is fully prepared to support the new businesses that Castle Rock’s combination of small town charm and big city amenities is attracting. “We have resources ready and waiting to help a developer, to help a retailer, to help a restaurant, to help any kind of business come to Castle Rock and succeed,” Mr. Tilson states. “We really make that a top priority.”
The town even has a strategic plan laid out to cover the next 20 years of expected growth. “We know where we need to implement infrastructure, we know where the businesses are going to be, we know where the residents are going to be,” Mayor Donahue reports. This careful preparation isn’t overkill – the population is expected to skyrocket to at least 105,000 over the next two decades. “We have significant growth going on right now,” Mayor Donahue summarizes. “We’ve got a lot of good things going.”