[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
 November 1, 1997

Connections: Front Range businesses increasingly look eastward

Children riding bikes down tree-lined streets. Drivers offering a friendly wave to oncoming automobiles. People making it across town in just minutes.
This seems like a typical image of rural Colorado, but not necessarily a business target.
Well, think again.
Morgan and Logan counties may seem isolated, but they are a part of Northeastern Colorado, a bigger region that has caught the eye of the business community. Although Greeley and Fort Collins are more prone to economic development, ties have increased between these cities and their smaller, more rural counterparts.
Several Front Range businesses either do work in Morgan and Logan counties or have opened branches there, and at least one from Logan County has traveled west.
Cable˜s Italian Grille in Greeley opened a Fort Morgan restaurant, Loveland-based Whittaker Oil bought a Conoco in Fort Morgan, Rothman Oil Co. of Greeley purchased Henry˜s gas station in Fort Morgan, Sykes Enterprises Inc. in Sterling branched out to Greeley, as well as other sites in the United States, the Express Personnel franchise in Greeley opened a Fort Morgan branch, Connecting Point from Greeley opened a Fort Morgan shop that was then moved to Sterling, and Northern Colorado Title Services Co. Inc. was opened in Fort Morgan by a Greeley woman and was recently bought by Morgan Financial Corp.
Also, Community First Bank Shares, based in Fargo, N.D., bought First Community Bank Shares that had acquired five existing banks in Northeastern Colorado, including ones in Fort Morgan and Sterling, and now has 22 banks statewide, and Greeley˜s Coldwell Banker Plains Real Estate Inc. has building projects in Morgan County.
Alliance Construction Solutions of Fort Collins has several projects in northeastern Colorado, and both the Western Plains Health Network, which operates North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley and McKee Medical Center in Loveland, and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins have affiliations of various sorts with Morgan and Logan county hospitals and clinics.
This connection between Morgan and Logan and their more-populated western neighbors is fueled by the small-town atmosphere, steady population growth and proximity.
"We˜re not losing population, and some cities are increasing, so I guess when companies branch out, they look at counties that are increasing," said Lisa Noble, executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Corp.
The population of Morgan and Logan counties decreased in the 1980s but has been on the upswing in the 1990s. Northeastern Colorado as a whole increased from 60,151 people in 1990 to 66,362 in 1996. Logan County˜s population rose from 17,567 in 1990 to 18,521 in 1996, and Morgan County˜s jumped from 21,939 in 1990 to 25,877 in 1996, according to a report from the Northeastern Colorado Association of Local Governments
But the area is on the economic mend from the recession of 1983 and is expected to continue to grow. A 2,500-bed state prison being built in Sterling will employ 850 people and bring spouses that will also need jobs, explained Pam Gumina, Sterling˜s assistant city manager. The labor pool in Logan County˜s hub is small, but once the prison employees and their families arrive, that work force will be boosted, Gumina explained.
Sterling is not the only area where a hike is anticipated in the labor force, and both population and labor-force growth factors into the Greeley connection when businesses are looking for a place to expand.
Logan County˜s labor force went from 8,636 in 1993 to 9,809 in 1997 and seems to be on track to achieve the goal of 10,500 by the year 2000, the Northeastern Colorado Association of Local Governments report stated. However, since that report was generated, Excel Corp. has announced it will close its Sterling beef plant.
"Morgan County continues to lead Northeastern Colorado in the development of labor force and the resulting increase in population," the report states, citing a labor-force climb from 11,822 in 1993 to 12,871 in 1997. Continued growth is expected to result in a level of 13,000 to 14,000 by 2000.
"As the whole metro area grows and their businesses get stronger, they˜re looking for new markets, and as our population is growing … Our whole state is growing, so we˜re seeing some of that out here," Noble said.
Another dimension is the quality of work force available, Noble added, and a representative of one business that has branches in Sterling and Greeley agreed.
"If you look at all our facilities, they˜re in rural communities," said Marcia Quinn, director of corporate communications of Sykes Enterprises Inc., a third-party technical-support company. "We find that there˜s a lot of benefits of going into these rural communities — work ethic, a good work force that˜s interested in high-tech jobs. And also we find schools that are willing to work hand in hand with us."
Morgan County boasts Morgan Community College, and Logan County has Northeastern Junior College.
As the areas grow but retain small-town qualities, business ties to Greeley and Fort Collins will just strengthen, and this bond will be further enhanced by small-town residents looking for big-city conveniences.
"Just because we live in Northeastern Colorado doesn˜t mean we shouldn˜t have the same services as Denver," pointed out Todd Simon, manager of the Fort Morgan Express Personnel office.
So in other words, why look far away when there are communities and work forces just down the road to the east? Noble noted, "ÔThe mountains are not moving, so they˜re looking this way."

Children riding bikes down tree-lined streets. Drivers offering a friendly wave to oncoming automobiles. People making it across town in just minutes.
This seems like a typical image of rural Colorado, but not necessarily a business target.
Well, think again.
Morgan and Logan counties may seem isolated, but they are a part of Northeastern Colorado, a bigger region that has caught the eye of the business community. Although Greeley and Fort Collins are more prone to economic development, ties have increased between these cities and their smaller, more rural counterparts.
Several Front Range businesses either do work in Morgan…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]