One Front Range city seems unfazed by the recession. The small town of Louisville -- near Boulder -- is booming. Businesses are filling downtown storefronts, housing prices are up, and restaurants are thriving. Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus has more on what’s going on in Louisville.
On Main Street, in Louisville, a couple of construction workers are laying a brick patio at the new Bittersweet Cafe and Confections. Patrick Walsh opened Bittersweet about a year ago around the corner and will soon move into this larger location. He’s one of many local business owners leading a renaissance of Louisville’s downtown--despite a bumpy economic recovery nationally.
Walsh: I’m not scared. And I’m going to take my money and put it back into the local economy where it’s actually going to do some positive good.
Across the street, workers are busy renovating a movie theatre and adding a restaurant. Nearby -- another restaurant is renovating and will reopen soon.
Walsh: All these businesses opening up employ a lot of people, and that’s going to go back into the local economy.
In fact, the Louisville city officials eports restaurant revenue is up 30-percent this year. And many entrepreneurs are trying to catch that wave.
Zarimba: I think we’ve had 5 restaurants open in the last 12 months and maybe an equal number of retailers.
That’s Mark Zarimba President of the Louisville Downtown Business Association and owner of the nearby Zarimba Graphic and Web Solutions.
There isn’t any one factor contributing to Louisville's growth. But many credit the Business Association’s efforts to promote Louisville and downtown. Zarimba says they gave people a reason to come--starting a street fair, putting up holiday lights in the winter, and even installing outdoor seating patios for restaurants.
Zarimba: But it was like something was lying dormant here and we just put a little love on it, a little attention and it just blossomed.
Zarimba says it helps that Louisville’s downtown is well laid out -- it’s compact and easy to walk. And Louisville’s close enough to pull in residents from Denver and Boulder.
Across the street from Zarimba’s office is Todd Stevenson’s In Season Local Market. As refrigerators hum in the background Stevenson recalls being charmed by the small town while visiting friends here. He eventually brought his business partner up to check it out.
Stevenson: And just loved the feel--the community, I knew it had wonderful schools for our family and just the types of people we ran into and how supportive of the community and the small businesses and the neighborhoods and just how much pride they took in just having a small town.
Not only did Stevenson expand his Denver-based business here -- but he’ll soon be a Louisville resident himself. Young families -- like his -- moving into the area have helped buoy the housing market in Louisville -- it’s one of the few places in the state where housing values actually went up through the recession. It didn’t hurt that in 2009 Money magazine named it the best place in America to live.
Richard Wobbekind is Associate Dean at the Leeds School of Business at CU-Boulder. He says the city benefits from a good economic base.
Wobbekind: In terms of, not just retail, but other types of industries. There’s something called Colorado Tech Center, has a nice diversity of industry there. And of course the big thing that’s coming up down the line is the ConocoPhillips campus that’s being developed, and that’s really giving a lot of energy to the future in terms of the Louisville economy.
And the town didn’t even have to entice ConocoPhillips to come here -- the company just picked the town and is going to be bringing thousands of
jobs in a couple of years.