Former Erie, Evans economic development chief settles into Firestone job

FIRESTONE — Paula Mehle, former economic development director in Evans and Erie, has hit the ground running in her new role leading economic development in Firestone, a position she started late last year.

“It’s just been a few months, and it has been wonderful,” she said. “It’s a really great community and there is a lot of support from our elected officials and community members who want to see us bring new retail and employment opportunities.”

Mehle isn’t the only former Erie employee now working in Firestone. A.J. Krieger, Erie’s ex-town manager, is now Firestone’s town manager. Firestone’s planning director Todd Bjerkaas and marketing and communications director Katie Hansen also made the jump last year.

Mehle said she chose to make the move to Firestone from Evans in part because Firestone’s location adjacent to the Interstate 25 corridor makes it particularly ripe for economic development.

“The corridor just gives [Firestone] just such great visibility,” she said. “The north Denver metro area is just exploding and we are just on the edge of that. It is special to be able to part of the great growth.”

Not only is Mehle the town’s economic development director, she also leads the Firestone Urban Renewal Authority, an organization tasked with shaping and implementing plans to redevelop and revitalize areas of southern Firestone.

While Firestone provides some different economic development opportunities, Mehle said her role is not drastically different than her previous positions in Evans and Erie.

“Each community has unique aspects, but overall you’re dealing with the same issues of business attraction, business retention, expansion and helping small businesses connect to resources,” she said.

“Our number one priority is retail attraction and taking advantage of the [Colorado Highway] 119 interchange flowing traffic east and west into Firestone,” Mehle said.

She said additional retail options would serve the existing Firestone community — “we definitely have a demand from our residents” — as well as bring in out-of-town shoppers.

Clothing stores, hotels, sit-down restaurants and daycare facilities are examples of the types of retail and service businesses Firestone needs most, Mehle said.

“When it comes to primary employers were definitely looking for a variety of manufacturers. We’ve got a lot of biomedical companies looking at our area, a lot of food manufacturers looking at our area.”

Boosting the employers’ awareness of Firestone is a key component to attracting new businesses to town.

“Our team is really working to get the Firestone name out there so people know about our community, where it’s located, its assets and what it has to offer.”

One of the ways Firestone is expanding awareness is by sending a team to this summer’s International Council of Shopping Centers ReCon retail real estate conference in Las Vegas.

“We are really excited to have this opportunity to tell the story about Firestone. We’re primed for development and ready to bring some great amenities and job opportunities to the community,” Hansen said.

Firestone is in the process of reviewing its land use codes to make them more development friendly and attractive to companies. “We think we can make our land use code even better by improving some of the [development review] processes,” she said. “Just in the few months I’ve been here, we have decided to change process so when an application comes in it is immediately sent out to various stakeholders to get their input early on. This makes it a smoother, faster process to get feedback … and helps save the applicants time and money. We’re going to codify [that process] in the new land use code in the coming months.”

Firestone is also examining the processes of nearby communities and assessing whether it would make sense to use administrative reviews instead of the more time-consuming method of approving projects after a series of public hearings.

If administrative reviews were expanded, “we would be able to push projects through [the review and approval process] faster where that makes sense,” Mehle said.

Thorton, which allows for administrative reviews of projects in parts of the city deemed to be areas of economic significance, could provide an example for Firestone to emulate, she said.

Mehle said another important part of her role is fostering regional economic development cooperation.

“I’m working with all of the economic developers in Weld and Larimer counties,” she said. “We are working together to put some unified messaging out to site selectors about the benefits of Northern Colorado and all of the amenities that we have to offer for businesses.”

FIRESTONE — Paula Mehle, former economic development director in Evans and Erie, has hit the ground running in her new role leading economic development in Firestone, a position she started late last year.

“It’s just been a few months, and it has been wonderful,” she said. “It’s a really great community and there is a lot of support from our elected officials and community members who want to see us bring new retail and employment opportunities.”

Mehle isn’t the only former Erie employee now working in Firestone. A.J. Krieger, Erie’s ex-town manager, is now Firestone’s town manager. Firestone’s planning director Todd Bjerkaas and marketing and communications director Katie Hansen also made the jump last year.

Mehle said she chose to make the move to Firestone from Evans in part because Firestone’s location adjacent to the Interstate 25 corridor makes it particularly ripe for economic development.

“The corridor just gives [Firestone] just such great visibility,” she said. “The north Denver metro area is just exploding and we are just on the edge of that. It is special to be able to part of the great growth.”

Not only is Mehle the town’s economic development director, she also leads the Firestone Urban Renewal Authority, an organization tasked with shaping and implementing plans to redevelop and revitalize areas of southern Firestone.

While Firestone provides some different economic development opportunities, Mehle said her role is not drastically different than her previous positions in Evans…