Pueblo has all of the ingredients needed for a vibrant business climate.
There’s no business like Pueblo business, or at least there aren’t many cities that check so many boxes when it comes to attracting and retaining companies and industry.>
“We have anything that a business â€“ from a small manufacturer to a large corporation â€“ would need to prosper,” says Jeffrey Shaw, president and CEO of the Pueblo Economic Development Corp (PEDCO). “We have a low cost of living and of doing business, customized training workforce programs, a competitive and aggressive cash-incentive program, very competitive utility packages, a transportation infrastructure with extensive rail, and a great climate.”
As a result, a diverse collection of industries has flocked to Pueblo, dating back to the late 1800s when the city was a focal point for Western railroad production. Even today, Pueblo produces nearly half of all rail track in North America, a percentage solidified by the recent announcement of a $480 million investment from EVRAZ North America to construct a 100-meter rail mill in the city.
Over the years, a number of other business sectors have secured a fertile foothold in Pueblo, including aerospace, food and beverage production, construction manufacturing and chemicals.
“There’s just a wide variety of manufacturers operating in Pueblo,” Shaw says.
Part of the reason is that, in 1985, Pueblo voters approved a half-cent sales tax for a new capital development fund. City officials estimate the tax generates $86 million in revenue. This cash source can entice companies to build or purchase facilities in Pueblo or make infrastructure improvements on current work sites.
Through the fund, the city provided EVRAZ North America with $16 million for its steel plant expansion, a project expected to generate approximately 1,000 new jobs. It also was used to assist CR Minerals, a leading producer of high-quality pumice products, in an $11 million expansion of its Pueblo facility and to attract Idaho-based indieDwell, a manufacturer of affordable housing, to open a factory in the city. In addition, the funds were tapped to help local businesses at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It allows us to be competitive with the incentives offered by our competitors, but it also allows us to control our destiny when it comes to our infrastructure and the facilities,” Shaw says. “We can offer incentives for a company with one employee or 1,000.”
The Schools Rule
While indieDwell General Manager Ron Francis says that incentive “is huge,” he also gives much of the credit for Pueblo’s attractive business climate to the city’s education system and commitment to workforce training. Through its agreement with the city, indieDwell will create at least 171 jobs, and many of those employees will come through Pueblo Community College (PCC) and/or Colorado State University-Pueblo.
“The colleges are a great partner for any company that comes into town,” Francis says. “The quality of the candidates we’ve been able to hire has been incredible. I am so impressed with the work ethic, the attitude and the commitment of the group we have here.”
“We’re plugged into what businesses are coming here and what the prospects are, allowing us to develop academic programs to meet the future needs of our community.”
CSU Pueblo President Timothy Mottet also credits the education systems throughout the city, including the two K-12 public school systems, for working closely together and with the business community to create the type of workforce needed for the ever-changing employment landscape.
“We all meet regularly and talk about the educational pipeline. We’re trying to create a more systemic approach through the education systems,” Mottet explains. “And then I’m a member of the PEDCO board, so higher education is at the table there.
“We’re plugged into what businesses are coming here and what the prospects are, allowing us to develop academic programs to meet the future needs of our community,” he adds. “We have the ability to be agile and adapt quickly to changing workforce needs. We’re very connected to the business community and the community in general.”
Combine all these ingredients, and you have the recipe for business success in Pueblo.
“It’s the relationships that are readily available that bring the whole package together,” Francis says. “PEDCO found the building for us. The half-cent sales tax enabled us to modify the building. PCC is helping us get our entry-level staff established; then, as we grow to need more skilled people, we’ll go to CSU to get those construction management graduates. Put that together with the lower cost of living here, and you have a great place for business.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Pueblo, CO area, check out the latest edition of Livability Pueblo, CO.