The Space, the Desire and a Sound Strategy for Growth
Town of Windsor, CO
Located in the heart of the Loveland/Fort Collins/Greeley triangle in Northern Colorado, the Town of Windsor is booming, attractive to businesses and residents because of its unmatched accessibility, infrastructure and room to grow.
Further to its access to assets like the Northern Colorado Regional Airport, rail infrastructure and highways 34, 392, 257 and Interstate 25, the Town of Windsor is capitalizing on the development that is taking place with a sound strategy for growth and the desire to do so.
As Windsor in located in two counties, Larimer and Weld, local and regional leaders and stakeholders are collectively pursuing opportunities for growth, doing so in a way that preserves the way of life residents hold so dear. According to Stacy Miller, Director of Economic Development with the Town of Windsor, “We’re almost at $600 million worth of investment since I started this department.” This figure refers to projects that her office specifically has had a hand in facilitating.
With that $600 million worth of investment, Windsor also added 2300 jobs that generate $132 million in payroll annually, as well as the addition or occupancy of 1.5 million square feet of space, with several other residential and commercial projects currently underway. The office of economic development itself has even doubled in size.
What is clear about the development strategy in Windsor is that it’s not simply development for development’s sake, but rather, efforts to grow are supported by demographic trends and economic forecasts, and are in accordance with the wishes of the businesses and residents that call the community home.
“We’re trying to find that balance where we keep Windsor’s hometown feel but we also maintain our infrastructure so we can handle the growth that’s coming,” explained Miller. “We’re always trying to be prepared instead of being reactionary.”
Town Manager Shane Hale agrees. “I have always been attracted to communities that feel tightknit; I just feel more at home when there is a small town feel and neighborly attitude that is valued and exemplified,” he said. “What is special about Windsor is that it has kept these positive attributes despite all of its growth.”
The town’s citizen survey indicated that commercial growth is a high priority, as is retail and job growth, though residents are concerned about traffic and the other unintended consequences of growth, which elected officials and town leaders are diligently trying to mitigate.
“They are really focused on preparing for that growth instead of trying to turn it away or trying to ignore the fact that it is coming. We’re actually embracing it and being prepared not only for the companies and the residents coming here but the existing industry, as well as the people who are already living here who hopefully won’t see too much of a ripple effect from all this growth,” Miller explained.
According to the state demographer, Colorado is slated to double in population by 2036, in net migration of people. As Miller noted, “Almost 500,000 people are coming into the area,” and elected officials and local and regional leadership teams are doing their part to prepare for that growth from an infrastructure standpoint, though they are still trying to find the balance between residential and commercial growth.
As one of the fastest growing parts of the state, Northern Colorado and Windsor specifically want to ensure that there is more than a welcoming attitude upon their arrival: there must be housing and infrastructure to support them.
“Right now, we are planning and preparing the infrastructure needs for that population growth to be about 60 to 65,000, but we did update our land use comp plan last year, and we’ve done a master roads and transportation plan. We’re preparing for the growth because we know that the growth is coming whether anybody wants it or not,” said Miller. In this case, they want it. “We have the designated areas to grow, so even from a residential standpoint, we’re over 30,000 people now and we have the capacity to grow up to 100,000,” Miller explained, and permits are at an all-time high.
In 2018, the Town of Windsor issued 546 single family residential permits, as well as 392 multi-family residential unit permits and 23 commercial permits. Of the several major residential components planned for Windsor, Miller highlighted two ongoing developments. Harmony Ridge, for example, will add 1600 new homes in northern Windsor, while the Raindance project will add 2800 homes in the southern part of town. Both projects are currently under construction and have vertical developments on site.
According to the Town of Windsor’s most recent land use comp plan, there are twelve business parks and nearly 7300 acres available for development. Great Western is the largest, boasting 2300 acres and home to one of the only active heavy industrial spaces available.
Miller referred to the Great Western Business Park as “one of the best rail-served business parks in the state,” highlighting the short line railroad there that allows negotiations to take place between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific (UP) railways. The business park also has Foreign Trade Zone designation, which allows for attraction on an international level by offering advantages to importing or exporting products or services in that zone, as well as an enterprise zone that gives state income tax credit advantages if you have a state income tax liability.
Most of the economic growth that is taking place in Windsor is in its manufacturing, health care and energy clusters, and this growth has been facilitated by sector partnerships and a collective interest in advancement. Local stakeholders including educational institutions take part in these partnerships to ensure that the needs of industry are being met, especially in terms of workforce development.
One of the Town of Windsor’s greatest assets is a high rate of mobility. In fact, one of the area’s largest employers, while located in Weld County, draws over forty percent of its workforce from outside the Larimer County portion of Windsor, proving that people will commute for a good job and that there is a regional labor pool from which to draw. “We have a very highly educated workforce, great employers and a lot of commercial space that is open to develop,” said Hale. “This community’s potential knows no bounds – we have endless opportunities to grow and prosper.”
Given this regionality, the Town of Windsor works in partnership with several entities and organizations including the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, the East Colorado Small Business Development Center, Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado, Front Range Community College, Aims Community College, workforce centers in Larimer and Weld Counties and many more.
Collective action can be found everywhere in Windsor. The town has even taken a cooperative approach to the development of local parks, and recreational opportunities make it an attractive place for individuals and families from all age demographics and diverse backgrounds.
“We made an agreement to give 100 acres of our park land to develop a sports facility that will continue to enhance Windsor’s access and ability to enjoy recreational lifestyles, specifically softball, baseball, lacrosse, football – all of those amenities,” said Miller of the Colorado National Sports Park Project.
In 2018, over 1.3 million people visited parks, trails and facilities in Windsor, which are accessible and proximate: 92 percent of all residents are within a ten-minute walk of a park, trail or recreational amenity. For a population of just under 30,000, it is impressive that the town can draw over 100,000 participants to its special events.
“Windsor is amazing, and I think a lot of people are drawn here because of those community amenities and access to those,” explained Miller. “Right now, from my office I’m staring at a lake. We have a swim beach, parks, events, farmers markets, public art, a dog park on the north side of the lake,” and so much more.
Hale agrees. “Windsor has a lot to offer,” he said. “The school system is top notch, our parks, recreation and culture really help contribute to a great quality of life, and the people here have a great sense of community, civic responsibility and pride in ownership.”
What Miller referred to as “a massive mixed-use development” is catalyzing development in the community’s downtown, and construction on one of the most iconic projects in Windsor is gaining momentum as well. The Windsor Mill, located in the heart of town where Main Street meets the eastern part of the central business district, will see the addition of 25,000 square feet of commercial space and restaurants and will serve as a gateway to the downtown. The project also aligns with the town’s strategy of creating a sense of place.
“We’re trying to shift our thought to, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ specifically from a retail perspective. We’re working with a retail consultant to identify commercial areas that focus on retail activity and then helping to design and implement those opportunities where retailers will be more successful,” shared Miller.
She added, “It will be a new forefront for us to take on and a new challenge in 2019: in an ever-changing retail market, making that transition into a sense of place that supports success.” It is an approach that reflects both the Town of Windsor’s historic ability to diversify economically and its desire and strategy to make the most of the opportunities for growth that are presenting themselves in Northern Colorado.