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Commerce City on the move
La Voz photos by Daryl Padilla
By James Mejía
Commerce City was once only known for industrial business, truck stops and the greyhound race track. Those days are long gone. Now the city is known at least as much for concerts and Colorado Rapids soccer games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, wildlife observation at Rocky Mountain Arsenal Preserve and growing residential neighborhoods. The city boasts 25 miles of trails linking 840 acres of parks and open space, and a championship golf course.

Buoying the growth of the city has been the influx of small businesses and a well-steered government that has prioritized neighborhood amenities, attracting even more people to the city. Many new residents to Commerce City are young people ready to stake their claim on first homes and unwilling or unable to save enough for exorbitant Denver real estate. Representing the city first as a State Representative and now State Senator, Dominick Moreno is himself a symbol of Commerce City’s growth - smart, hard-working, and willing to try new ideas. The recently elected Moreno, is the youngest senator currently serving.

Moreno attributes the city’s growth to residents’ willingness to invest in their own community, “Commerce City is really growing and becoming a very diverse community with a diverse employment base and different residential offerings.” Moreno continued, “When our residents approved a 1 percent increase in sales tax in 2013, we were able to renovate a recreation center, build a new one in the north part of the city, build a water park in the south part of the city and expand Tower Road. There is a lot going on right now.”

During his first term, Mayor Sean Ford pleaded with the Commerce City electorate to approve the sales tax in an Op-Ed published in the Denver Post. “A new Commerce City is emerging. Our community is becoming a place of renewed prosperity and far-reaching opportunity for our diverse and dynamic population. As never before, it is a city where businesses see the potential to thrive and where families want to move. As a result, Commerce City has experienced unprecedented growth.”

When the sales tax increase passed, Ford started work on the projects with substantial momentum towards a second four-year term. He was reelected in 2015 with over 60 percent of the vote. The political stability in Commerce City has allowed for continuity of vision for many of the projects focused on providing increased lifestyle amenities for residents and better transportation access to Denver highways.

Moreno also attributes city growth to a rich history of heavy industry companies, “We successfully negotiated a substantial investment by Cummins Engine for a diesel remanufacturing plant. Industrial areas are both a critical part of our history and provide a significant tax base.”

In a unique blend of holding on to big employers like FedEx, UPS, Shamrock Foods and Waste Management, Commerce City has also helped their smaller firms develop. The city recently celebrated their corporate success by recognizing seven standouts at their March 2, Commerce City Business Appreciation Awards event.

Mayor Ford was on hand to congratulate and thank the award recipients for their contributions to Commerce City, “This annual event is the city’s opportunity to thank our businesses for the important role they play in the success of our community. After all, a Quality Community for a Lifetime often begins with a good job.” Ford refers to the city’s new mantra, and a lot of folks agree with the message.

In the category of “Businesses On the Move,” four firms were recognized for bringing new capital investment, substantially increased sales, or employment growth to Commerce City:

Asahi Food – a fresh fish company delivering to more than 200 restaurants. Though the company has only been in Commerce City for six years, they continue to increase both their employee base and also their regional delivery area beyond the state of Colorado.

Birko Corporation – a supply house of food and chemical products, and IT services for the food industry. Recognized for their workforce growth over their 25 year tenure in Commerce City, the firm expanded their workforce by ten percent last year to 82 employees.

Jalisco International – a cement construction business known for building roads, bridges and walls in the government and private sector. The company has been in Commerce City for over thirty years but grew their workforce by more than ten percent to bring their total employee number to 80.

Sashco, Inc. – a sealant and caulking manufacturer. The longest standing firm of the awardees, Sashco began in 1936 and now employs over 100.

Ethiopian immigrant, Ruth Tsehaye was given the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, recognizing her accomplishment in starting out as a 7-11 employee only to become the owner of four 7-11 stores in Commerce City. Ruth employs more than 40 workers in her stores. Metropolitan State University of Denver continues to crank out some great talent.

The Economic Development Award for Leadership was given to United Power, a community based utility cooperative providing electricity to Commerce City as one of its customers in its 900 square mile service area. The Business of the Year winner was Ardent Mills, recognized for sustained business leadership. The company mills over 1.8 million pounds of flour a day in its 24-hour facility.

Moreno is excited about business development in the city and is clear they aren’t finished with its business growth spurt, “In the Reunion neighborhood of Commerce City we built a grocery store and have attracted additional retail investment.” He was bullish about the city’s geographic location so close to the airport, “Projections show that major growth in the metro area will occur in the northeast corridor with the airport as a significant economic driver but also because of the availability of land. UPS and FedEX are some of Commerce City’s biggest employers.” Moreno notes that projections show Commerce City will be a city of over 160,000 people. Currently, the city is home to 50,000 residents.

Commerce City is a northern Denver suburb located in Adams County, and the 18th largest urban center in the state of Colorado. Commerce City government cites their growth as the state’s fourth-fastest growing city. Their press release for their business awards event says, “Commerce City is redefining itself for the next generation, building on historic values of community, industry, agriculture and family.” For more information, please visit their website at www.c3gov.com.

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