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ARCHIVED  August 23, 1999

Longmont jobs lure commuters

LONGMONT — Charles Gray takes the back roads each workday to commute from his home in Frederick to his job in Longmont — about a 25-minute trip.

Gray, a camera operator at the Times-Call Publishing Co., moved out of Longmont and bought a home in Frederick four years ago. He doesn’t mind the 17-mile drive each way because he and his family found more house for their money in the rural community.

In fact, Gray is one of many Longmont workers who commutes to the growing commercial center. Once a bedroom community for people who worked in Boulder and Denver, Longmont now attracts commuters itself from surrounding towns. Employees at Longmont companies may live in town but are just as likely to live in the communities of Lyons, Berthoud, Mead, Johnstown, Milliken, Loveland, Firestone, Frederick, Dacono, Erie, Lafayette or Louisville, city officials say.

Although voters recently defeated a measure to add the communities of Frederick, Firestone and Dacono to the Regional Transit District’s metro bus service, the push to do so indicates the growth of these surrounding towns. Additionally the state Legislature voted this year to allow property owners in areas contiguous to the RTD to annex themselves into the district.

At Seagate Technology Inc., which manufactures disk drives for personal computers at its Longmont plant, most of the 920 employees are Longmont residents, said Tina Adler, a human resource department spokesperson.

However, many of the company’s employees commute from as far away as Fort Collins, Loveland, Broomfield, Westminster and even Denver, she said.

A market profile report produced by the Longmont Area Economic Council found that about 24 percent of all Longmont workers spend from 45 to 59 minutes commuting to work each way.

Another 18 percent spend 15 to 29 minutes commuting each way, while 5 percent spend 30 to 44 minutes commuting to work. Meanwhile, some 30 percent have a commute time of less than 15 minutes, according to the report.

Historically, residents of Longmont were the commuters, driving to work in nearby cities such as Boulder or Denver, said Brad Schol, Longmont’s director of planning. But by the early 1990s, the employment pattern became more balanced, after the city organized an effort to attract more businesses, he said.

Today, the city continues to focus on a balance between commercial and residential development, although Longmont’s city council has not adopted any policy pushing for more growth in either sector.

Longmont now has 190 primary employers in the technology sector — mostly in the areas of biotechnology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and computer science, according to Longmont Area Economic Council data. However, about 40 percent of all wages paid in Longmont come from manufacturing jobs.

According to a 1997 population estimate, the city has 105,151 residents living within a 10-mile radius of the city center.

A 1998 study by the Boulder County Economic Development Partnership found that 57 percent of Longmont’s workers live within city limits, while another 43 percent commute from other communities.

In fact, the study showed that Longmont has the highest number of locally residing employees of any town within Boulder County.

“There’s strong housing activity in both the single and the multifamily area,” Schol said. “We’re also seeing some retail expansion.”

A move to expand and upgrade several of the town’s retail centers and other facilities during the last six to eight months reflects a thriving residential market, he said.

The Village at Burlington retail center at Colorado Highway 119 and Hover Road is putting up a couple of new buildings at its site, he noted. And a new Home Depot store approved by Longmont’s city council in August will be built on Hover Road north of the fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, Melody Homes, Pulte Homes, Centex and U.S. Home are some of the companies working on new residential developments in the area.

Dave Oyler, president of Melody Homes in Denver, said the residential home builder is starting to construct a new development, Pleasant Valley, just west of Pace Road and south of Colorado Highway 66 in Longmont. The area will include 350 single-family homes, and sales will open starting in October. The first homes should be completed by spring 2000, he said.

Although the company hasn’t set the prices yet, they will probably be in the same range as those in the company’s recently completed Fox Creek Farm development in Longmont. Fox Creek, located at 17th Ave. and Pace Road, is a community of 467 homes, which sold off briskly, Oyler said. With prices ranging from $141,000 up to $200,000, the company averaged about 13 to 16 sales a month during a 21/2-year period, he said.

“We’ve built off and on in Longmont for over 30 years,” he said. “It’s certainly growing residentially, and they’re seeing a lot of job creation, too. It’s a pretty balanced rate of growth.”

He noted that towns outside the Denver area got their start as residential communities for commuters. “But rooftops attract business,” he said. And now Longmont has become a commercial center as well as a residential community.

“A variety of incentives have been provided over the years to encourage more commercial development,´ said Phil Delvecchio, Longmont’s community development director.

Historically, Longmont was more of a commuter town to other commercial centers. “People were commuting more than they were staying here,” he said.

But the city has worked hard to bring more jobs into the area. It has been the city’s policy to encourage economic and industrial development to overcome that imbalance, he said.

LONGMONT — Charles Gray takes the back roads each workday to commute from his home in Frederick to his job in Longmont — about a 25-minute trip.

Gray, a camera operator at the Times-Call Publishing Co., moved out of Longmont and bought a home in Frederick four years ago. He doesn’t mind the 17-mile drive each way because he and his family found more house for their money in the rural community.

In fact, Gray is one of many Longmont workers who commutes to the growing commercial center. Once a bedroom community for people who worked in Boulder and Denver,…

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