Wood: Loveland enjoys ‘quiet boom’

Don’t look now, but a new sweetheart has emerged on the region’s economic-development scene: Loveland.

The Northern Colorado city — which grew 14.24% between the 2010 and 2020 censuses to a population of 76,378 — has seen a wave of positive economic-development news in recent months, a “quiet boom” that will bring thousands of additional jobs to the city.

And while the Sweetheart City is perhaps best-known for its annual Valentine Remailing Program, the Centerra development and as a waypoint on the road to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s begun to position itself as a desired location for major employers as well.

Here’s just a sampling:

Lightning eMotors Inc. (NYSE: ZEV), which went public this year — continues to expand its footprint at The Forge campus in southwest Loveland, the former site of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Agilent Technologies Inc. Lightning has absorbed 231,000 square feet of the 811,817-square-foot facility. The electric-vehicle manufacturer employed 180 as of July, with another 100 positions listed for hire.

Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Danaher Corp. (NYSE: DHR), will occupy a new, 95,114-square-foot industrial building in Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners’ Axis 25 development along Interstate 25, near the Northern Colorado Regional Airport. Beckman Coulter employs about 130 in Loveland alongside sister company Hach Co. but will add 85 jobs with the expansion. (And Hach also has expanded in recent years.)

Amazon is the likely anchor for the 152-acre Loveland Commerce Park development along the I-25 Frontage Road and Larimer County Road 30, just north of the airport. The logistics project could encompass 2.5 million square feet and bring in thousands of jobs.

• Startup airline Avelo Airlines will begin nonstop flights to Los Angeles from Northern Colorado Regional Airport. Service will begin Oct. 6.

Discovery Air, a 29.5-acre campus for aviation-related businesses, has broken ground on its first hangar and office projects, including a new fixed-base-operator terminal. 

• The Warehouse business accelerator has launched a capital campaign that will allow it to build out 48,000 square feet at The Forge.

Simply Delicious Inc., which does business as Bobo’s Oat Bars, is considering Loveland and Johnstown for consolidation of its manufacturing and warehouse operations. The Loveland City Council voted Aug. 24 to waive $300,000 in sales tax that Bobo’s would have paid on manufacturing equipment, which one Bobo’s official said was “tipping the scales favorably toward Loveland.” Bobo’s is expected to decide on its location within the next month. 

Downtown has seen a wave of building renovations and redevelopments, with new restaurant, retail, office and residential uses.

• More residential development is in the works, with three projects bringing 1,300 new homes to the Colorado Highway 402 corridor alone.

And rumors abound about additional development around the airport, potentially involving nationally known development companies.

In earlier stages are The Brands at the Ranch, a new mixed-use development that will encompass 200 acres in Loveland, straddling I-25, and major renovations and new construction are planned at The Ranch, Larimer County’s fairgrounds complex, located in Loveland.

Not all is a bouquet of roses for the Sweetheart City, of course. The Promenade Shops at Centerra recently went through its second foreclosure in 12 years, with future ownership of the lifestyle center in doubt.

And employers throughout the region are dealing with supply-chain issues and struggling to fill vacant positions, potentially thwarting companies’ ability to expand rapidly.

But the current level of economic activity shows that the city can still attract major employers and developers, adding a few decibels to the city’s quiet boom.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942 or cwood@bizwest.com.