Fountain demand for business going unmet

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The City of Fountain, roughly 13 miles south of Colorado Springs, is on the precipice of a population boom, and it wants more businesses — now.

Fountain Valley’s population, which includes Security and Widefield, is around 88,000, and city officials expect that number grow 14 percent by 2014, when troops return to neighboring Fort Carson from deployment and are added as part of new combat aviation brigade.

City officials say there’s not enough retail and restaurant development to meet even the current demand, let alone future demand.

A promotional brochure designed to lure businesses to Fountain says there is demand for electronics, sporting goods, furniture, book stores, auto repair, auto parts, restaurants, recreation, toys, family entertainment, health care, higher education, insurance, financial services and lodging.

“I get calls all the time from people saying ‘I want a toy store,’ ‘I want a movie theater,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want a steak restaurant,’” said Fountian Economic Development Director Lisa Cochrun. “A steak restaurant would do really well there. It’s a real meat and potatoes town.”

Oddly enough, restaurants and retailers, chains in particular, have been reluctant to blaze trails into new markets, she said. They don’t want to be the first, and, in many cases, they’re already overextended in other markets.

So, Fountain is making businesses an offer they can’t refuse.

The city is offering new businesses a 50-percent rebate on their sales-tax bills for their first five years of business. They have to meet certain qualifications, including the creation of 10 full-time jobs in the community for the city to approve the rebate.

“We decided that 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing,” Cochrun said.

The city has also developed a quick response task force to streamline the application and permitting process for businesses.

“We just want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for them,” she said. “We want to make sure they know they’re welcome here.”

New businesses in the fast-growing, newly constructed Markets at Mesa Ridge found their welcome mat.

The shopping center is about one mile east of Fort Carson’s Gate 20. Its newest building is home to casual restaurant Bird Dog BBQ, which opened two months ago. A YoYogurt is putting the finishing touches on its interior and storefront, and construction has begun on two dollar stores and the area’s first Denny’s is on the way.

The Subway sandwich shop in the center is consistently among the top five busiest in the southern Colorado and is usually in the top three , said Subway Regional Director of Operations Connie Gemignani,.

Tom Arpad, supervising manager at Bird Bog BBQ said weekday sales are $2,000 to $2,500 and weekend sales between $3,000 and $3,500. That’s a lot lower than at his former location in Stetson Hills, but he expects business to grow with time. The restaurant is just two months old.

A business that teaches Taekwondo quickly outgrew its space and is moving into a larger one within the shopping center, and the space it is vacating is already leased to a financial planning business.

Property manager Richard Walker with 1st Properties said the center is now 100 percent leased with plenty of interest in future development.

“It looks like 2005,” Walaker said. “We haven’t seen development like this since then. This is a picture of what we saw in ‘05 and ‘06 and ‘07 at Stetson Hills and Powers.”

Cochrun said it has been a long time coming.

“Retailers are just now catching on,” she said. “We have tremendous pent-up demand down here and we’ve been underserved for years.”

The problem has been that people view Fountain as a sleepy little nothing-town where no one lives, Cochrun said.

“People choose to live in this city because it’s a small town with lots of great parks and quality of life and a real personal atmosphere,” she said. “People who live in a small town outside of a big city don’t want to have to go to the big city for everything.”

Fountain likely won’t remain small for much longer. Builders are already seeing increased demand for housing.

New Generation Homes, Richmond America and St. Aubyn are all building in the area.

Kevin Hart, sales manager for St. Aubyn, sold two homes in the first two weeks of building at his Creek Terrace development, off Fountain Mesa Road. He’s building seven spec homes and has between 30 and 40 lots awaiting development.

He expects to average three to four sales a month in the subdivision, where home prices range from $180,000 to $240,000.

Nor’wood Development Group has already submitted plans to the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department for a 246-unit apartment complex that it hopes to start building within 60 days.

Even though Fountain has sounded the Siren’s call, building-permit requests are still down.

“Permits are down everywhere,” Cochrun said. “We’re just catching up. Retailers are just finding us.”

She expects the activity to pick up soon. nCSBJ