Success is Being Seen and Castle Rock is the Winner
Column by Pam Ridler
Priorities for the Town of Castle Rock have been focused on economic development, including primary employment, expansion of the tax base and attraction of goods and services. These priorities have been deemed necessary to achieve the community vision of a self-sufficiency and provide an outstanding business climate that encourages, attracts and supports economic investments and activity.
It is nearly impossible for one organization to be successful in achieving all its goals of economic vitality, especially in a difficult market. However, after three years the Castle Rock Economic Partnership has made some major strides as a public/private collaboration. Partners consist of the town, chamber, Economic Development Council, Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Merchants Association. This type of collaborative approach to community economic development is neither easy nor common. This is one of the reasons CREP was named the best economic development program in Colorado in 2010.
So far in 2011, we have been having a comparably strong year in economic development activity. There have been approximately 150 development prospects and inquiries recorded by the EDC. The town has issued over 366 new business licenses, taxable sales are up 5.1 percent since January and we have seen a small increase in new commercial construction activity while experiencing a small year-to-date decline in new residential construction activity. There have been a number of new business openings and announcements which indicate continued progress in business climate improvement.
The CREP team is preparing comprehensive reports on major economic development elements such as primary employment, retail, entertainment, downtown, tourism, special events and quality business climate. These reports are being presented to the town council and the boards of each of the partnering organizations with the plan that its leadership will meet the end of September to strategize on economic development priorities and approaches for 2012. Further plans are to develop, implement and track -- in order to gain better measurements -- the conditions and trends in our local economy and our performance in core economic development strategies.
Health CareAn important element in our community vision is the availability within Castle Rock of a full range of healthcare services necessary for Castle Rock to be a self-sufficient community. The addition of healthcare facilities and services are also an important source of quality job creation and private investment activity.
Over the past few years we have been successful in obtaining the satellite Sky Ridge facility, expansion of physicians, medical offices and healthcare support services which have created "healthcare service clusters" in our community. We have now achieved a larger and more ambitious healthcare goal with the most recent addition of the Castle Rock Adventist Health Campus 24/7 Emergency Room and Imaging Center located in the Meadows (25,000 sq. ft, $23.6 million facility) which will open and fully functional September 7, 2011, employing 55 full time employees.
Recently Centura/Adventist announced it has authorized a $128 million investment to construct a 212,000 sq. ft. "phased hospital" with a planned opening in the summer/fall of 2013 including a four story facility containing 50 licensed hospital beds and an expected 300 jobs added in our community.
Another new addition to community medical services is Kaiser Permanente Health Center, which includes family, internal, pediatric, dermatology, laboratory, pharmacy and radiology services. This facility was opened in August 2011 and to date has added 40 jobs.
Senior medical and housing services are being planned as part of the Bonaventure Senior Living facility, located in The Meadows, scheduled to open October 2012. This 180,000 sq. ft. facility will consist of 55 assisted living units, 12 memory care units and 89 independent living units, plus a movie theatre, health club and other indoor and outdoor amenities. Bonaventure will employ about 55 full time employees, not including the construction "hires" necessary to build the facility.
Castleview Memory Care Assisted Living Residences is currently under construction at 864 Barranca Drive. It will contain 48 secured memory care units. It is expected to open late this year or early 2012. Other health providers and services continue to locate in Castle Rock such as: Denver Nephrologists, Innovative Pain Medicine Center of Colorado, Physiotherapy Associates, Integrative Wellness Group and several new dentistry and physician offices.
Higher EducationAnother core, self-sufficient community element is valued not only as a service for residents, but also important for business attraction and retention, job training, continuing education and professional development opportunities.
Arapahoe Community College will be offering 13 courses begining in October 2010 in an eight week, accelerated format. Both day and evening sessions will be available. Registration is already open for classes beginning in October.
Webster University will be offering a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership beginning in January 2012. Classes will be hosted at the Chamber of Commerce board room on Thursday nights. The program consists of five, nine-week classes per year, with breaks in between. Participants can earn a degree in a little more than two years (or sooner).
Primary EmploymentThe creation of quality, primary jobs is a cornerstone of our overall economic development strategy. Competition from other states and communities offering extraordinary incentives, makes attraction or expansion of businesses very difficult. Local assets in the competition for businesses include our highly educated workforce; the attraction and retention efforts of the CREP partnership with property owners; and the performance of the Town's Development Services Department with financial support from the Town's $5 million Economic Development Fund.
The challenge is the lack of lower cost, existing vacant and desirable industrial and office space. Vacant land that is more expensive than many other locations and, in general, less incentives allowed by the State of Colorado than many other states. The Economic Development Fund is intended to help us bridge those gaps. In addition to the success with our new healthcare facilities, we have also had success in obtaining the manufacturer Aluwind, Commnet and Mywedding.com which are all considering the possibility of future expansions.
RetailThe town is primarily reliant upon sales tax revenue to support our community services. Our retail market, and its consequent assets in terms of sales tax revenue, is very competitive and still one of the strongest growing markets in the region, despite a current slowdown in residential population growth.
CREP is aggressively working on trying to acquire several major potential retail prospects. Our goal is to obtain retail establishments that offer the goods and services that will encourage Castle Rock residents to buy locally and expand the retail market to entice visitors to shop here. We are aggressively recruiting several major retail prospects and are hoping to announce new regional retail in the near future.
Marketing, Tourism and Special EventsOur objective is to promote Castle Rock through increased awareness by use of special events, marketing and tourism efforts that will, in turn, give exposure to our local businesses and increase the sales tax base. Special events and outdoor recreation-related tourism, is a growing economic niche for Castle Rock.
Some of our current events and athletic tournaments have an audience that extends well beyond Douglas County. These regional events entice people from outside Castle Rock to visit and spend their money in our community, thus creating one of the principal motivators for increasing economic vitality and growth.
The CREP partners realize the need to gain a better understanding of community assets and the opportunities and other investments that might be necessary to obtain the best return. Tourism depends on attractions which are primarily festivals, sporting events/tournaments and amusement/entertainment attractions.
DowntownOur small town character and sense of community is an important component in the viability of our downtown - a historic asset that CREP is working diligently to not allow to deteriorate. A design competition was conducted recently by the DDA intended to generate enthusiasm and ideas for building improvements which also included incentives with a facade improvement grant program. Maintaining and improving our downtown is challenging. Redevelopment, business attraction and retention, establishing and maintaining the right mix of retail, services and employment poses challenges.
The DDA has recently adopted a Wedding District Program as a niche market for the downtown. This concept focuses on weddings and all things related and is viewed as BIG business. No community in Colorado has yet to capitalize on creating this marketing district. This is a collaborative community effort with all the CREP organizations financially committed to its success. More later on the progress.
EntertainmentThe community vision for a self-sufficient community includes places for residents to be active and to be entertained. In addition to our wonderful outdoor parks, trails, golf courses and open spaces we are in need of other types of entertainment. Our community services survey indicates a desire for more entertainment amenities. Ranking highest in the survey was the desire for a bowling and performing arts facility, demonstrating a broad diversity of interests by community residents.
This year the town commissioned an expert consultant's analysis and report to assist in identifying obstacles in attracting entertainment businesses. This report will provide a baseline for entertainment attraction discussions as part of CREP 2012 priorities.
Quality Business ClimateThe regulatory environment is an important component in providing a quality business climate and developing an economic development strategy and program for the community. In creating a business-friendly environment it is a very important component in making all of the above efforts possible. The town has made tremendous progress over the past few years by establishing and consistently meeting performance timelines for development review and permitting. Consistency, predictability and speed have been recognized by members of the development community and the feedback has been very positive.
New zoning and overlay approaches for interchanges on Wolfensberger and downtown have been implemented. Systems have been streamlined and numerous improvements made to codes and regulations which are supported by the development community. Development rate and fee change recommendations have been presented to Town Council for consideration which, if approved, will decrease development costs.
It really takes a team to create a better community and we believe that our public/private partnership has been successful in obtaining our goals. We will continue to work together to build a brighter future for all of us who work, live and play in Castle Rock.