Berthoud economy developing, more to come

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Berthoud is growing. Not just in terms of the town’s population but also with new businesses, offices and industrial outfits that will help to increase tax revenue.

Since the 2010 census, which pegged Berthoud’s population at 5,105, the last 10 years have seen more than a 50% increase with 2019 population estimated at 7,946, according to worldpopulationreview.com. Even with the growth, however, Berthoud is still one of the smallest towns in the Northern Colorado region.

Setting aside the larger cities of Loveland (77,446), Longmont (86,270), Greeley (107,348) and Fort Collins (167,830), Berthoud’s population of 7,946 is still significantly behind neighboring Johnstown (14,795) and Windsor (28,967) and below that of even Wellington (9,994), nearly 40 miles to the north.

Yet the growth in the town’s population, which should continue at a torrid pace as approved and planned housing developments are built out and filled with new residents, businesses are beginning to see opportunities.

In a lengthy discussion with the Surveyor in late December, Berthoud Town Administrator Chris Kirk and Business Development Director Walt Elish discussed the economic side of growth in the town.

In 2019, Berthoud saw three new retail establishments – O’Reilly Auto Parts, Ziggy’s Coffee and 7-Eleven – open their doors in the long-vacant Berthoud Common property alongside Mountain Avenue. Furthermore, Love’s Truck Stop with Taco Johns and Subway at the intersection of Highway 56 and I-25 and the TPC Colorado Golf Course are also open and fully operational. All help generate sales tax revenue, which serves as the town’s financial lifeline.

Love’s, which benefits from an estimated 80,000 vehicles passing by on I-25 daily, and TPC Colorado, which is one of just 35 such golf resorts worldwide, both bring a significant amount of nonresident business, and thus sales tax revenue, to Berthoud.

The question comes, what and who, are next?

Despite rumors on social media, Kirk confirmed that Dollar General, the discount retail outfit, has not formally applied to the town, though discussions have happened regarding a potential for the retailer to come to Berthoud.

Economic growth usually begins slowly and increases incrementally as population grows. Typically, the first signs of growth, particularly in bedroom communities like Berthoud, begin with small retail outfits like the O’Reilly’s and Ziggi’s Coffee. “Just to see a little bit of retail growth is a good sign. It’s important for retail sales tax generation … it also shows that developers, in particular, see Berthoud as a good investment for business even if its small retail like Ziggi’s or 7-Eleven that there’s opportunities here,” Kirk said.

Kirk explained that Berthoud is highly unlikely to see a major employer, such as a big corporation like Amazon, a large medical center or even a big-box chain retail outfit like Walmart or Costco setup shop in town any time soon. Most national and international businesses who look to Colorado look in the metro Denver area but, as Elish said, looking long-term, “As more companies begin to experience the difficulty of commuting in and around the Denver area, it will start to make our area look more and more attractive.” But such changes in development patterns are likely decades away.

Said Kirk, “I think we’re in that mode right now of how you approach economic development from the perspective of a bedroom community where you don’t have this high concentration of employees?”

Elish said, in response to the rhetorical question posed by Kirk that the approach must be all-encompassing; “We’re trying to attract more retail, plus industrial, plus office, plus some more commercial,” and that the town is making significant strides in each.

The Berthoud Tech Center, a development south of Highway 56 between County Road 7 and I-25, was sold in 2019 to Waste Not Recycling, Elish confirmed, and added that the company will be completing infrastructure on the remainder of the 70-acre site. “We’re very excited about that because the company’s intention is to move their facility on-site and take about 10 acres of the site and they would be the developers of the other 60 or so acres. That’s a prime industrial site,” Elish said. “Once they get the infrastructure in, there’s going to be about 50 or 60 acres that will be prime industrial site right along I-25”

Another prime area for potential industrial development is the Jackson property, located off the northern portion of First Street adjacent to the railroad tracks. There has been interest in the property, but developers have shied away as a result of the high costs of construction, noting that is not a problem specific to Berthoud but something developers are facing all over the region.

“A couple companies that were looking to move onto that site have decided not to go forward because of construction costs in the region, not just Berthoud, it has nothing to do specifically with Berthoud but when they started to put the numbers to paper and realized what it’s going to cost them to build … they’re rethinking the decision,” Elish said of the Jackson property.

The proposed Wilson Ranch development, located on the eastern side of I-25, is planned as an enormous mixed-use development that does include retail, light commercial and residential, will initiate beginning development operations soon, Kirk said. “I think we will see some fairly significant things happening there even in just the next couple of years, they’re getting close,” he said and called the preliminary master plans for the area “fantastic” and said, “I think as they get further and further along in the process people will be pretty impressed with the quality of the design and forward-thinking of the plan.”

The Ludlow and Safeway development areas located on the northwestern and northeastern corners of the U.S. 287/Highway 56 intersection were also discussed. The owners of the Ludlow plot want to sell the entire 300-acre space to a single developer and so far, have been unable to secure a buyer, though interest is there.

The Safeway spot was recently sold, and the new developer has submitted a site plan though there is no anchor tenant, yet. As Elish explained, “With this new ownership, they’re going to want to do something with that, it’s not just going to sit there. We’re working with their broker and that’s encouraging because it’s a great site.”

Finally, Kirk explained that the town does not make investment decisions. He explained he is frequently asked why Berthoud does not have one certain retailer or another and said that that is the retailer’s decision. Kirk said, “business follows rooftops” and, as Berthoud continues to see an influx of residents, the businesses, such as a Trader Joe’s, should follow suit so long as the economy at large continues humming along. “Why aren’t we getting high end retail? We’re not big enough,” Kirk said.

Said Kirk, “The reason why retail companies open in town is because they believe they can make money here, they can make use of their investment dollars here, not only because we happened to reach out to them. We didn’t really prospect 7-Eleven at all, they reached out to us, it’s pure capitalism.”

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