ARCHIVED  December 1, 1996

Fort Morgan poised for DIA-related growth

The economic ripple effect from Denver International Airport hasn’t touched Morgan County as anticipated, but whatever lingering disappointment remains is overshadowed by the potential opportunities that DIA may still create.

The most obvious and immediate effects of DIA, said Catherine Shull, executive director of the Fort Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce, include increased traffic along Interstate 76 going to the airport and families employed by DIA moving to the Morgan County area. The traffic has directly increased the motel and fast-food business near the highway.
The location of the I-76 corridor makes the highway the strongest link connecting Morgan County and DIA. The airport commute is 80 miles and little more than an hour’s time from Fort Morgan. Wiggins, 15 miles west of Fort Morgan, is even less. Both of these communities have already become homes to employees of the airline industry.
The easy commute is what Sandy Schneider-Engle, city progress director for Fort Morgan, considers the key to the long-term development of industry in Fort Morgan linked to DIA.
“There is potential of businesses who ship their freight by air because of the proximity to DIA on I-76,” she said. “This is where we’re hoping the real spinoff will come.”
She added, “Development will come long-term and
slowly.”
Even so, Fort Morgan is not waiting for “spinoff” to land in its lap. Through its proactive approach, the Fort Morgan community is gradually setting up basic infrastructure improvements for the community and potential industry.
According to Schneider-Engle, the 108-acre industrial park that lay almost vacant during the doldrums of the 1980s is almost half sold now and remains available for more industry.
Jim Zwetzig, Fort Morgan mayor, confirms that “Currently, we have built a new sewage treatment facility capable of treating a population double the current Fort Morgan population of nearly 10,000 people.
“We have also joined the Northern Colorado Conservancy District in building a water pipeline to Fort Morgan,” he added.
Active recruitment, planning and infrastructure improvement head the list for seeking industry. However, the greatest asset Fort Morgan may
have is its sense of self. Jerry Jones, president of Farmers State Bank in Fort Morgan, said, “We aren’t set to become competitors for NCRs and HPs. But because of DIA and I-76 access, Fort Morgan and Morgan County have become attractive to small manufacturing firms. They could locate anywhere, but want to be where reasonable transportation accommodations are.”
Matt Varney, president of Colorado Community First National Bank, considers the long-term effect of DIA will be “a limited growth impact in the Fort Morgan community for three to five years but definite
ly more in five to 10 years.”
Varney explains, “As the motel and office industry develop closer to DIA and as buildings move north and roads develop, then we’ll begin to see a good and strong effect in Fort Morgan.”
Patti Lewis, executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Corp., concurs.
“We’ve seen some impact from DIA affecting the western side of the county and more growth northeast of the airport into the county. As that development comes to Morgan County, people will also come to live.”
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The economic ripple effect from Denver International Airport hasn’t touched Morgan County as anticipated, but whatever lingering disappointment remains is overshadowed by the potential opportunities that DIA may still create.

The most obvious and immediate effects of DIA, said Catherine Shull, executive director of the Fort Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce, include increased traffic along Interstate 76 going to the airport and families employed by DIA moving to the Morgan County area. The traffic has directly increased the motel and fast-food business near the highway.
The location of the I-76 corridor makes the highway the strongest link connecting Morgan County and…

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