September 12, 2011

Greeley wins again, playing its water card in Leprino deal

Almost eight years ago, the city of Greeley out-dueled the juggernaut that has become Centerra in east Loveland in retaining the headquarters of ConAgra Corp. – then the parent company of Swift & Co. – as one of its prime economic underpinnings.

In doing so, Greeley went to the bank: Its water bank. With all the economic ills the city had weathered, including the loss of the 800-plus work force at the Hewlett-Packard Co. plant on Greeley’s western edge, the city was due for a break, and got one.

But no luck was involved. ConAgra’s decision to keep its headquarters in Greeley was, rather, due to the far-sighted and strategic plan to make water a tool for economic development.

The trump card has been played again, this time with a guarantee to furnish cheese giant Leprino Foods Co. with a water supply that will cost the company about a third of what it would have to pay on the open market for Colorado-Big Thompson project water that is the lifeblood for Northern Colorado development.

The Greeley City Council deserves high-magnitude kudos for judiciously applying the water tool again, as well as a tax-increment financing package, that will almost certainly bring Leprino to town to revitalize the old Great Western Sugar mill site, tearing down the crumbling remains and redeveloping the surrounding land.

While Leprino officials have not formally announced their choice of Greeley in its months-long site-selection process, Leprino President Larry Jensen told the Business Report after the crucial council vote that “this whole thing has a good feel to it.”

Since then, both sides agree that a few mere details are all that remain in the decision-making process, and that the very near future will yield the announcement of 400-plus new, high-paying manufacturing jobs for the city.

When that happens, think of W.D. Farr, the visionary cattleman and water expert who helped steer the city’s water policy toward developing a reliable and sufficient supply of the one commodity that has emerged as more important than any other to the region’s economic development.

Think of Jon Monson, the city’s water resource manager who took so many of his cues and so much of his guidance from Farr in implementing those ideas. Think of the members of the Greeley Water Board, one of the most powerful and well-informed public bodies in all of Northern Colorado, for safeguarding the city’s interests.

Perhaps no city in the region needed this boost more than Greeley, and we all need to stand and recognize those responsible.

Almost eight years ago, the city of Greeley out-dueled the juggernaut that has become Centerra in east Loveland in retaining the headquarters of ConAgra Corp. – then the parent company of Swift & Co. – as one of its prime economic underpinnings.

In doing so, Greeley went to the bank: Its water bank. With all the economic ills the city had weathered, including the loss of the 800-plus work force at the Hewlett-Packard Co. plant on Greeley’s western edge, the city was due for a break, and got one.

But no luck was involved. ConAgra’s decision to keep its headquarters in Greeley…

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