Pueblo’s Economic Outlook Forum, a collaborative effort by the City of Pueblo, Pueblo County government, Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, Pueblo Community College and Dr. Tatiana Bailey, a regional economist, seeks to provide an update highlighting economic activity and what it means for area residents, businesses, industry and its local economy.
In addition, a review of Pueblo County’s key economic metric and economic indicators from it latest monthly dashboard will be shared to show how the region is doing, identify areas where improvement is needed and implement actionable efforts to reach our desired outcomes.
The Pueblo Economic Outlook provides this data to help employers, business leaders, government officials, educational and workforce partners and others to make more informed decisions with the greater goal of assisting in economic development efforts.
If after viewing the video, you are interested in further supporting our ongoing efforts to improve Pueblo’s economic vitality and quality of life through contributions or sponsorships of either the dashboard or the economic outlook forum, please contact Pueblo City Council member Dennis Flores by email at email@example.com
With your help and support, Pueblo is well positioned for stronger economic growth.
Dennis Flores, Economic Forum Organizer Abel Chavez, Economic Forum Organizer
The new solar array not far from where the Arkansas River winds through Pueblo, Colorado, is unlike any other in the world: It powers a steel mill. Just about all of it. 24/7. That’s a first.
Consider this: 750,000 solar panels on 1,800 acres of sun-drenched high plains providing 300 carbon-free megawatts to EVRAZ steel.
Steel had long been the backbone of Pueblo’s economy from the time the first mill was built in the late 1800s. So it’s no small irony that a renewable and non-emissions source of power is being used for a carbon emissions-intensive industry, one built on iron and coal in a city that has evolved from a one-time blue collar Democratic bastion to more conservative in recent decades.
The Pueblo experience may provide lessons for other communities around the world that, like Pueblo, have feared losing their traditional economic base and jobs long-rooted in fossil fuels.
A ‘win, win, win’ proposal … if only …
The Pueblo experience also offers something of a blueprint for others to consider regarding the importance of communication, trust, and imagination. In Pueblo’s case, a bit of lucky timing also helped. But the process still required bringing together folks who likely don’t routinely agree. They included players from several often-opposing industries, elected and non-elected community and civic leaders, the state, and also active and engaged local residents.
“Each of them had something the other desired,” says Dave Ferryman, senior vice president of EVRAZ North America’s Pueblo business unit. “We had what I would call a win, win, win proposal. If we could get the parties to agree.”
Pueblo’s steel mill has cycled through owners, boom times, bad times, bankruptcies, new beginnings, and more. When it was acquired by EVRAZ in 2007, the operation was already using an electric arc furnace instead of a traditional blast furnace. An arc furnace makes new steel out of old steel – everything from old washing machines to – in EVRAZ’s case – the remnants of Mile High Stadium in Denver, onetime home of the Broncos NFL football team. That process knocks down carbon emissions by up to 75%.
But an arc furnace needs a lot of power – more power than anything else in Colorado.
“We’re the largest energy consumer in the state of Colorado,” Ferryman says. “That’s not necessarily something we’re proud of, but a necessity for our business. So we need energy; we need affordable energy.”
That need was particularly strong given a new mill EVRAZ was planning to build to manufacture rails for train tracks in 320-foot sections instead of the customary 80-foot rails. Without more affordable power than it had, EVRAZ might decide to build the new mill in one of the other states it was actively considering. “There was a lot of concern locally that this could be the beginning of the end for Pueblo steelmaking,” Ferryman says.
How to begin: ‘We just started having meetings’ across the community
But something else happening at the same time changed the whole trajectory.
Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest power provider, had been supplying electricity to the mill complex from three coal plants – Comanche 1, 2, and 3. The prices tended to be high and also inconsistent.
Xcel didn’t know the steel mill was considering moving when the State of Colorado issued a mandate in 2017 requiring power providers to get to 80% carbon-free power by 2030. The first step Xcel wanted to take was to close Comanche 1 and 2 in 2023 and 2025 respectively, about 10 years earlier than planned.
“It was important to start talking with our community about that transition,” says Hollie Velasquez Horvath, who handles state affairs and community relations for Xcel in Colorado and has family in Pueblo. “So we just started having meetings.”
What Xcel heard at those meetings was that, along with concerns about losing jobs at the Comanche plants, Pueblo was worried the steel mill would simply up-and-leave.
Bringing all parties together seemed like the only way forward.
EVRAZ needed affordable energy. Xcel needed carbon-free power. Pueblo needed to keep its industry and the jobs and tax base that came with it.
The answer was literally sitting in EVRAZ’s backyard, those 1,800 sun-bathed acres.
“We have a lot of land that really isn’t good for agriculture, or much anything else – just very desert-type environment in and around our facility,” Ferryman says. “But a lot of sunshine and a lot of land.”
The solution was solar.
“The conversations weren’t necessarily driven by the climate side of it, but the solution came from that,” says Jeff Shaw, president and CEO of the privately-run Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, PEDCO. “We had to get guaranteed lower rates. And this was the way that we can do it.”
Complexity of deal yields to time, effort, and ‘a little creativity’
It was a complicated deal though. “The most complicated one we’ve ever worked on in 40 years,” Shaw says.
In addition to EVRAZ and Xcel, the parties included solar developer Lightsource BP. Half-owned by BP, the company was tapped to build, own, and operate the installation – now known as Bighorn Solar. Also involved were the city of Pueblo; the county of Pueblo; PEDCO; and others.
Each put in time and effort to understand the nuances of difficult technical and financial processes. It took more than a little creativity to get through some unique twists and turns, starting with the mill’s power being supplied by Xcel, but not the city’s power.
In addition, it took a bit of doing to convince EVRAZ that solar was going to make more sense than coal for a 24/7 operation.
Further complicating the conversation: The steel mill is actually located in Pueblo County, not in the city. So to tap the city’s dedicated tax fund for capital or economic development, PEDCO had to figure out a way for the city to annex a portion of where the new rail mill would be located.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Terry Hart, a county commissioner at the time. “We had to find a way to make this work, or we stood the chance of losing the steel mill.”
Residents of the community had to be involved early and at every step.
“We had to educate them on what they were doing, why they’re doing it, the economic impact of the mill that it has right now, and then what the projected economic impact would be after expansion,” Shaw says. “Overall, the community was wildly supportive.”
With all that, the deal took less than two years to pull together. Some $95 million in a variety of incentives was secured, and so too was a 20-year fixed rate power purchase agreement for EVRAZ.
Since the fall of 2021, two years after the deal was announced, Bighorn Solar has been providing power to EVRAZ.
“The best thing that Pueblo did was not put up a roadblock and decide at that moment when we started talking with them that they were going to fight this plan and fight the realities that coal plants were being decommissioned and coming offline,” Horvath of Xcel says. “Instead, they engaged.”
Lots of winners, the climate among them
Pueblo is among several winners, as are efforts to address climate change. Coal has basically been eliminated from the mill. The third Comanche coal plant still running the mill and online only since 2010 now is to be retired in 2034 – 36 years ahead of schedule. Combine those carbon savings with the solar power and savings from mined iron and coal no longer needed, and the mill will produce 1/30th the carbon it might have otherwise.
Xcel has two more solar installations under construction in the area – 550 megawatts of grid power and storage. They will produce tax revenue, jobs, and the kind of climate change-consciousness and cleaner environment more and more businesses and residents seek when choosing where to locate.
EVRAZ, having gotten a consistent energy price, has stayed, and its planned new mill is under construction.
The local community college is getting money for job training, and in addition to the mill jobs increase, there will now be jobs for solar installation.
Xcel says it is already applying the lessons of Pueblo to help retire two coal units in another part of the state. And they’re talking to their large customers about sustainability goals and making positive impacts on climate change. “So for them to have a large utility-scale solar farm that generates a majority of their power, man, what a great story,” Horvath says.
Pueblo County appears now to have the solar bug. It’s hoping to land solar industry manufacturing and supply chain companies. It’s planning to build a net-zero jail with a solar array that will generate electricity for the jail and for the grid.
Had the folks in Pueblo looked only at their existing businesses and customers, Ferryman says, chances are EVRAZ would have moved, and Xcel might have never come up with an alternative after shutting down the coal plants.
“When people come together that don’t necessarily work well together,” he says, “If you can get the parties to sit down and talk, you can find alternatives that end up being wins for everyone. And that’s really what happened here.”
The lesson, says Chris Wiseman, a Pueblo County commissioner: “Just be open to any ideas.”
“You’ve got to trust each other,” he says. “We have our little scrapes from time to time because competing governmental entities do, but when it comes down to what we need to create jobs and create a better environment in Pueblo I think for the most part we’re all on the same page.”
From Shaw of PEDCO, who says he couldn’t have envisioned the Pueblo scenario even five years ago: “The easy lesson is if it can be pulled off for a large steelmaker, there’s really no industry that it can’t work for.”
PUEBLO – Today Boreas Campers, a manufacturer of custom, off-road and off-grid camper trailers announced it selected Pueblo, Colorado for the site of its new manufacturing facility. The manufacturing facility at full capacity will employ 29 workers, paying a minimum average wage of $56,900 pre-benefit, and generate an estimated $1.65 Million dollars in annual payroll. The new manufacturing facility will be located at the 3004 S. Prairie Ave., in the City of Pueblo.
“My wife and I are incredibly excited to move our growing business, Boreas Campers, to Pueblo. After nearly a year-long search for a new home and facility for Boreas, Pueblo checked all the boxes”, said Matt Reichel, owner of Boreas Campers. “The team at PEDCO were influential in the decision to make the journey south. Joe O’Brien and Jeff Shaw were more than accommodating in showing us around the city and felt the pride taken of their hometown. This was not only a business decision but also a people decision. The affordability, access to the outdoors, and the bustling downtown was what sealed the deal for us and our company. Pueblo will allow us to continue expanding Boreas Campers along with providing a great place for our family and the families of our team members.”
Boreas made the announcement at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, December 13, 2021. Details of the project include:
29 guaranteed new full-time jobs with an Average Annual Salary: $56,900. (Pre-Benefit)
$696,000 from the City of Pueblo’s half-cent fund for economic development (contingent on approval from the Pueblo City Council)
“PEDCO is thrilled to work with Boreas on this great project for Pueblo,” said Jeff Shaw, President and CEO of PEDCO. “Matt and his wife have been great to work with and see Boreas enjoying an incredible and prosperous future in Pueblo,” added Jeff Shaw. “Pueblo is a great place for companies manufacturing products related to the outdoor recreation industry,” said Ashley Valdez, Chairwoman of the PEDCO Board. “Boreas will enjoy the ability to tap into Pueblo’s incredible manufacturing environment while at the same time enjoy the beautiful outdoor recreation experiences Pueblo and the surrounding communities offer”, added Ashely Valdez.
Ecological Materials, LLC announces it will open a manufacturing/processing facility in Pueblo for the manufacturing and processing of material for the asphalt industry.
PUEBLO – On Monday, October 25th Ecological Materials, LLC, a manufacturer/processer of material for the asphalt industry announced it selected Pueblo, Colorado for the site of its new facility. The facility at full capacity will employ 17 workers and generate an estimated $760,000 in annual pre-benefit payroll. The new factory will be located at 1107 S. Santa Fe., Pueblo, CO 81006 in the City of Pueblo.
Why Ecological Materials, LLC chose Pueblo: Marie Logsden with Ecological Materials, LLC stated that “Pueblo has some distinct business advantages including proximity to the interstate for shipping goods to neighboring states, a dynamic manufacturing sector with seasoned and collaborative mentors, strong focus on workforce training and development, and a low cost of doing business. We received robust support from PEDCO to understand the area. They introduced us to industrial partners who need to dispose of their plastic waste, helped us find the right facility, and connected us to workforce training and helped us source our first Pueblo based employees. We also found strong support from the Mayor’s office for our vision to divert huge volumes of industrial waste from the landfill and to use it to improve asphalt. We have felt welcomed by our partners in the private and public sector since day one.” Ecological Materials LLC made the announcement at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2021. Details of the project include: • 17 guaranteed new full-time jobs with an Average Annual Salary: $44,800. (Pre-Benefit) • $375,000 from the City of Pueblo’s half-cent fund for economic development (contingent on approval from the Pueblo City Council) • $ 1 Million investment
“PEDCO is thrilled to work with Ecological Materials, LLC on this wonderful project for Pueblo,” said Jeff Shaw, President and CEO of PEDCO. “Ecological Materials goal to simultaneously solve for the expense and tragedy of plastic waste while making roads cheaper, stronger and longer lasting is a goal we can all get behind” added Shaw.
Armstrong Steel announces it will open a 200,000 sq. ft facility in Pueblo to manufacture steel buildings
On Friday, October 8th, Armstrong Steel, a manufacturer of steel buildings announced it selected Pueblo, Colorado for the site of its new factory. The factory at full capacity will employ 51 workers and generate an estimated $2.6 Million dollars in annual payroll. The new factory will be located at the Minnequa Industrial Park in the City of Pueblo. “The city of Pueblo and PEDCO have been integral partners in helping us bring these jobs to the hard-working folks of Pueblo,” said Ethan Chumly CEO of Armstrong Steel. “Pueblo has the best workforce in the state and economic environment that allows companies like Armstrong Steel to continue to grow and succeed. Armstrong’s Pueblo factory is a logical and necessary step toward strengthening the company’s competitive position in the marketplace. The larger, modern facility will accommodate leading edge manufacturing technology, lean equipment layout an automated workflow, resulting in increased efficiency and employee productivity. It’s a win-win situation for Pueblo and Armstrong Steel and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Details of the project include:
51 guaranteed new full-time jobs with an Average Annual Salary: $52,400. (Pre-Benefit)
$1,224,000 from the City of Pueblo’s half cent fund for economic development (contingent on approval from the Pueblo City Council)
$5.7 Million investment
“PEDCO is thrilled to work with Armstrong Steel on this incredible project for Pueblo,” said Jeff Shaw, President and CEO of PEDCO. “Ethan and his team have been great to work with and we look forward to a long prosperous future with Armstrong Steel manufacturing steel buildings in Pueblo,” added Jeff Shaw. “For over 100 years Pueblo has been known as a steel town and it is great to add Armstrong Steel the strong list of manufacturers in the steel industry,” said Ashley Valdez, Chairwoman of the PEDCO Board. “These are jobs we are proud to bring to Pueblo, added Ashely Valdez.
Click here to watch the Announcement via Facebook Live
On Saturday, July 24th, 2021, PEDCO membership, past chairs and staff gathered at the Pueblo Convention Center to celebrate 40 years of PEDCO’s success. This date marked exactly 40 years since PEDCO held their first meeting of the Board of Directors. The group enjoyed a lovely meal and presentations from Jeff Shaw, President; Dave Cardinal, First Chairman of the Board and Ashley Valdez, Current Chairwoman of the Board. The evening Culminated with the PEDCO Powers Pueblo – Celebrating 40 Years Video.
PEDCO wishes to extend gratitude for the continuing support of our membership, the citizens of Pueblo, city and county workers and elected officials for their continuous support of the mission to attract, retain and expand primary jobs.
The One Pueblo team is made up of over 100 individuals from 57 organizations throughout Pueblo County. The team has been working together since January 2021. Using a strategic plan as our guide, we are focused on strengthening the ground work that must be in place to ensure that Pueblo can grow and prosper. We see Pueblo County as a dynamic and forward thinking community of choice within Colorado that offers unparalleled opportunity for economic prosperity to each of its residents.
5 teams have been formed: Vision Alignment, Talent Pipeline, Foundational Community Elements, Target Industry Development and Community Positioning. Each team has specific goals and tactics that focus on defining and supporting all of the community efforts already in place, finding the gaps that exist and strategizing efforts to strengthen them.
PUEBLO – TTCI, the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, City of Pueblo and Pueblo County announced a local incentive package to assist TTCI in locating to a new facility in Pueblo. TTCI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, was established in 1998 to support the development and deployment of innovative technologies to increase the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the railroad industry. The success of TTCI is a huge credit to its employees. TTCI’s staff consists of over 300 professionals, including mechanical engineers, civil engineers, industrial engineers, electrical engineers, metallurgists, operations staff, hazardous material training experts, and other specialists, with doctorate, master, and bachelor level degrees.
The introduction of an updated engineering and laboratory facility allows for TTCI to continue to fulfill its critical role as a world-renowned expert in rail engineering, research, testing, training, consulting, software, and AAR technical services.
“We’re laying the cornerstone for the next chapter of TTCI and rail innovation right here in Pueblo,” said TTCI President Lisa Stabler. “This new partnership represents our commitment to serving our rail customers, maintaining our employees’ quality of life and contributing to this community long into the future.”
TTCI, the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, City of Pueblo and Pueblo County made the announcement on April 26, 2021 @ 4:00 PM at The Center for American Values, 101 S. Main St, Pueblo, CO 81003. Details of the incentive package include:
TTCI would move its headquarters to two current facilities at the Pueblo Memorial Industrial Park (350 and 442 Keeler Parkway).
TTCI would maintain 195 full time employees at an average pre-benefit wage of $73,333 per year
Up to $4,293,180 in rent abatement from the City of Pueblo’s half cent fund for economic development (contingent on approval from the Pueblo City Council).
“PEDCO is honored to help TTCI with this important decision for both TTCI and Pueblo. We are proud of our rail industry and are confident in the future success of TTCI in Pueblo,” said Jeff Shaw, President and CEO of PEDCO. “TTCI is the global leader in rail research, testing and development. We have been honored to have TTCI operating in Pueblo and are proud to have secured a new home for TTCI in Pueblo,” said Jeff Shaw. “Pueblo has a proud history in the rail industry. I’m delighted that TTCI continues its journey to embrace innovation and technology in our community that will undoubtedly set the course for the industry for many years to come. On behalf of PEDCO, thank you for your continued trust and partnership.” said Ashley Valdez, Chairwomen of the Board of PEDCO.
About PEDCO: The Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) is a member supported non-profit organization whose mission is to attract, retain and expand primary jobs. PEDCO works with city, county, state and community organizations to coordinate available resources for economic development.
The reason was simple — they had played a part in helping it arrive safely.
United Launch Alliance operates a propulsion shop and test facility, as well as a fabrication site, at the Pueblo Memorial Airport Industrial area.
John Hochevar, a Pueblo native who is an engineer working for United Launch Alliance, said watching the Perseverance landing was, “a little nerve wracking because it’s worth a lot of money and it’s a big deal too.”
The successful landing Feb. 18 left him feeling “overall relieved, but we have a 100% success rate on our vehicles, so we’ve never failed yet.”
United Launch Alliance constructs rockets in Decatur, Alabama, and Harlingen, Texas, where the Atlas V vehicle that launched Perseverance in 2020 was built.
The Pueblo-based staff, which numbers 40 workers, did some testing to make sure the Atlas V was ready to go, according to Scott Messer, program manager for United Launch Alliance’s NASA Launch Services.
“The most important (thing) to the Mars mission is the ‘prop shop’ testing lab for the Atlas program,” Messer said.
“If we run into an issue with a part of some kind and we need to do some extra testing to make sure we are comfortable with flying the part then Pueblo can do some additional testing for us to make sure everything is good.”
In the case of the Atlas V’s responsibility for getting Perseverance to Mars, Pueblo engineers tested a busing connection.
“The busing connection has a lot of wires running into it and then it spreads those wires out to different points on the vehicle. At one point we had some concerns about the busing connectors we purchased from a supplier and so we asked the prop shop to do some testing at various thermal environments and different levels of vibration,” Messer said.
“We had to make sure that when they launched the Mars mission everything was going to be good and was successful —l and it was,” Messer explained.
The company launches, “a lot of really cool space craft for our customers, but without a doubt the Mars missions are the highest profile things that happen. Our vehicles have launched every Mars mission for NASA and nobody else has ever launched a mission,” he said.
Launching rockets to Mars since the 1960s
United Launch Alliance and its heritage vehicles started its Mars launching missions in the 1960s. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission with Perseverance was the company’s 20th to the red planet.
“We’ve been through this landing thing several times, but it is always super exciting and just a thrill to be a part of the program. I got notes from the Mars program manager in the days leading up to it detailing how grateful they were that we put them on a good path to get there.
“I suspect everyone in the company had their computers turned on and watching as the spacecraft went in through the 7 minutes of terror (the final descent through Mars’ atmosphere) and everything worked out good,” Messer said.
Pueblo staff also work on Delta IV rockets. Those rockets have proven heavy-lift capability for delivering high-priority U.S. Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office and NASA payloads to orbit.
That entails final work on “very large 5-meter fairings, some of the largest fairings we have, that are launched on Delta IV vehicle and there’s some work done in one of our facilities in Pueblo, where we get the fairings ready to go for our Delta IV,” Messer said.
Vulcan Centaur launches later this year
Up next is the final development of a Vulcan Centaur vehicle that will replace the Atlas V and Delta IV.
“It will go from two different product lines to a single product line. Right now we are on track to be ready to launch it for the first time in the fourth quarter this year,” Messer said.
Pueblo staff also are working on the Vulcan Centaur. Historically Pueblo workers once built the Delta II which launched many of the early Mars missions starting in November, 1996.
Since then, the production facility moved from Pueblo to Decatur in about 2000, Messer said.
“Being able to do something in the aerospace industry — specifically launch rockets is pretty cool to do in your hometown,” Hochevar said.