Great Western Industrial park sees rapid job growth on edge of ‘industrial renaissance’

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The companies in Windsor’s Great Western Industrial Park work in the business of many things, including rapid job creation.

The park employs approximately 1,500 people and will add an estimated 575 new jobs this year, with the possibility of 125 more in the next 18 months.

“Any time you have a direct manufacturing job, it’s one more person buying houses, gas and dinners or bringing their spouse (into the community),” said Jenni Stanford, director of industrial development for northern Colorado at Great Western Development Co. “Those are kind of the ripple effects that we think an industrial hub like we have makes in a small community.”

Peripherally, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported the high-paying manufacturing positions created by the park would add an additional 1,250 to 2,000 jobs in the surrounding area this year on top of future total 2,200 jobs.

Windsor Director of Economic Development Stacy Johnson theorizes the town’s ongoing growth in sales tax, which has surpassed previous years in 2015, largely comes from the employees of the park.

While the town has seen steady growth in recent years, the park’s growth rate comes in about 20 percent higher than the overall area growth, Johnson said.

The park receives attention from companies requiring heavy industrial use as the only property zoned as such left within city limits, a reason Johnson recommends such business exclusively to the park.

“It’s a no-brainer that they’re going to get referred automatically,” she said.

The effects of the industrial park and its workers go far beyond the Windsor town limits, however.

Within the employment pool, the companies’ workforce comes from across northern Colorado, not just Windsor.

“From a county economic development perspective, I think that the indirect spillover of jobs and opportunities are seen all throughout Weld County,” Stanford said.

The county as a whole reaps financial benefits from the presence of the park’s companies through property taxes and transportation partnerships.

The town and county see financial boons in particular from entities such as industrial powerhouse Schlumberger that invested $20 million in the park and will continue to benefit from Crall Products Inc., which is poised to invest upwards of $10.3 million this year in land purchase and constructions costs, said Rachel George, spokesperson for The Broe Group.

Many of Windsor’s top employers reside in the industrial park, including Vestas Blades America, Inc. with 558 employees at the end of 2014 and Carestream Health Inc. with 469 employees in the county at the end of the same year.

Vestas ranked as the second largest employer in the town at the end of 2014, but will likely become the largest when it fulfills a 400-employee expansion this year, surpassing the Weld County School District’s total 664 Windsor employees.

The park has become the highest concentration of primary employers in the town as well, Johnson said.

“They’re a tremendous draw for businesses and industry through utilized rail,” she said.

As an affiliate of the Denver-based Broe Group and OmniTRAX, Inc., the park shines as a “bright spot” of business growth despite nationwide slow down and layoffs in the oil and gas industry.

The park’s officials attribute the sustainable growth to the mix of startup technology businesses and larger, traditional oil and gas companies that have come to call Windsor home.

“We are fortunate to have a very diverse mix of current companies and (innovative) prospective companies,” Stanford said.

The ability to grow and expand facilities ranks as one of the top reasons large companies from around the country gravitate to the park, Stanford said.

“The park has some great opportunities that are shovel-ready in northern Colorado, meaning you don’t have to wait for utilities or infrastructure,” Johnson said. “They’re ready now.”

In recent months, Stanford has received inquiries from companies ranging from “start-ups looking for their first location to major fortune 100 companies that are interested in establishing a presence here.”

“I think that part of our expertise is our ability to attract those types of companies to the region,” she said. “They don’t just fall out of the sky and land here, our expertise really helps to lure them here and show them what a great place this is to live and work.”

The availability of rail access and central location to larger cities helps to draw the high-tech manufacturing business Weld County vies for into Windsor, Johnson said.

Additionally, Stanford said the park’s affiliation with OmniTRAX, Inc., gives companies dual access for shipping allowing them “competitive pricing power and a major competitive edge” through the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.

Companies in the park also receive benefits through the Foreign-Tax Zone — normally reserved for ports but given to the park due to rail access — that allows inventory exported outside the country tax breaks from customs, Johnson said.

“Right now, we’re really poised to be a jumping-off point,” Stanford said. “We think, as a company, that we are on the verge of an industrial renaissance and we’re perfectly poised to take advantage of that.”

Park officials project strong growth will continue over the next five years.

“Since it opened in 1999, the Great Western Industrial Park has consistently added business and with that growth has come a steady increase in employment, totaling more than 1,000 new jobs in the past decade,” Stanford said in a news release. “The main things we feel is excitement for the kind of growth that we have had and anticipation of staging ourselves for more.”