Laying the Foundations

Town of Erie, CO
Written by Mark Golombek

Picture a sunrise in the mountains with clear skies and a host of multicolored hot air balloons dotting the area. What a beautifully serene way to start the day…
Erie, Colorado is a place that is seeing growth on many levels for good reason. The last frontier of Denver area expansion is growing at a great pace and has all the infrastructure in place to accommodate that expansion. Business in Focus spoke with Erie’s Economic Development Coordinator Paula Mehle and Erie Economic Development Council representative Amy Tallent.

Just north of Denver, Erie, Colorado is all about the location. This is a growing community with a small-town feel and a mix of modern amenities.

“It’s just one of the perfect areas in Colorado. We have a great view of the snow-capped mountains in the higher elevations. It’s absolutely beautiful, and in the mornings from May to November, we have hot air balloons launched into our communities. We get to see those beautiful, colorful balloons nearly every morning,” says Paula.

This stunning feature is just one facet of the high quality of life Erie has to offer. Life in Erie features incredible mountain views, varying elevations, a family-oriented population, excellent education, community centers, 1,200 acres of open park space, wonderful libraries, a championship golf course, arts and entertainment options, and thriving businesses.

“We have an arts coalition in the area – plenty of events for people to partake in. The events are fantastic as it merges business and consumers together. I have moved twenty-eight times in my life, and I have never seen business and residents work together like they do in this area,” says Amy.

There are fantastic cycling opportunities with many trails and open space. The community came together and built its own singletrack bicycle trail system throughout the community in addition to the regular trail system. Singletracks are challenging mountain biking trails that are quite narrow – just wide enough for the bike. Erie also boasts the Boulder Valley Velodrome, an outdoor cycling track. It is the second velodrome in the state of Colorado, and the state is attractive to cyclists because its higher altitude means riders must increase endurance.

“They train at high altitudes, and then they will go to low altitudes this year at the Rio Olympics. They can breathe much easier than those that have not trained at the higher elevations,” says Paula.

There are always cyclists riding and joggers running on the community roadway systems and trails. Marathon races of varying sizes are very well attended. More trails are constantly being built and more space acquired to provide an outdoor environment for residents and visitors.

Colorado is known for the high quality of its schools for kindergarten through grade twelve, and Erie is known for its highly-educated workforce. For higher education, Erie is a short drive from the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University. Front Range Community College serves the area, and Erie is between its Longmont and Westminster campuses.

Access to post-secondary education means that many students can still live at home and attend school. The hope is that as students graduate, they will come back to the Erie area to start up their own businesses or serve existing ones.

Global Trade magazine credited Erie as one of America’s top ten cities in its skilled workforce category. Fifty-seven percent of adults twenty-five years and older have at least one degree. Colorado is a highly-educated state as a whole, but education rates in Erie are even higher.

“People that choose to go to the Denver and Boulder region, like and stay in the area that is attracting the workforce. They are going to school here, loving the area and finding jobs here, so that is part of the reason that we are in the top ten,” says Paula.

With a skilled and educated workforce growing at a healthy rate, it follows that businesses and corporations are looking to relocate here. King Soopers grocery chain is currently building a store and other companies like Burger King and Great Harvest Bread Company have opened in Erie as they know it is a great place to live and grow a business.

“We are working to attract not only businesses but also developers to come and build their facilities, subdivide the land and extend the utilities,” says Paula. Erie is ready for those that are willing to build. It is quite the opportunity for them with brand new modern infrastructure.

Inevitably people and businesses are taking notice. The current population is at 23,000, but growth is imminent. “Home builders can’t build fast enough. After we build out, we estimate to be at around 65,000 to 68,000 within the next thirty-five to forty years. We have a lot of land available for residential development,” says Paula.

Recently, the town’s trustees approved a preliminary development for about 750 lots. Erie is supportive of continued, smart growth and is ensuring that there is sufficient infrastructure in place to support it. Paula believes that, at the current rate, the population will reach an additional 40,000 by 2025.

Detailed planning is the main reason why this growth is realistic. Erie’s elected officials acquired water rights to sustain that anticipated growth. In the Colorado desert, water rights are a must.

“Just a few years ago we opened up a water treatment facility to support that growth. They have evaluated and drawn up preliminary design plans for that growth. We are prepared for that growth,” says Paula.

In the Erie Highlands development, all new homes will have fiber optic internet connection. This pilot fiber-to-the-home project may just be one of the first of its kind in the country. This is a definite asset to telecommuters and entrepreneurs working from home. Having that infrastructure built into the community from the very beginning makes it attractive to people who need high-speed internet service.

Something unique is happening in Erie. Developers actually have open houses to ask the people about what they want to see in the development. Developers also invest in the community through event sponsorships. “I know that this does happen in other areas, but I believe that this is very unique to Erie. Developers not only market out to potential Erie residents, but they are taking the time to care for current Erie residents as well,” says Amy.

One can get to Erie from the I-25 via Highway 7 or Highway 52, which are the major highways in the area. Highway 287 is another important corridor that runs north-south through the Boulder region, meaning Erie is in a perfect location for residents to get to employment, education, recreational and cultural pursuits. The Denver International Airport is also only thirty minutes away.

“You have the ability to visit the historic downtown area and eat at a local ice cream shop or eat at a bigger chain restaurant along Highway 7. It’s a wonderful mix of residents and businesses that support each other,” says Amy.



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