Woodland Park businesses thriving in down economy

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During this down economy, there aren’t too many communities that can boast they just had their best sales tax year ever.

Woodland Park can.

“We’re kind of thinking if we’re doing this good when the economy is bad, look out when things turn around,” said Woodland Park Mayor Steve Randolph.

The city has issued 22 business licenses this year, according to a report from the department of economic and downtown development.

Among the new businesses, are a brewpub, BierWerks, a home furnishings retailer, Tweeds, a kitchen and homebrew supply and a consignment shop, Brenda’s Boutique and Consignment.

All the above businesses were started by entrepreneurs who saw a demand and their opportunity.

Even though the all the town’s activity hasn’t been positive — the town lost a Blockbuster movie store, a sporting goods store and an arts and craft store among other small business closures — the overall gain has been positive.

New business-friendly policies, along with changing demographics and character in Woodland Park, have opened up opportunity in the little mountain town half an hour from downtown Colorado Springs, said Woodland Park Director of Economic and Downtown Development Beth Kosely.

“Woodland Park has become more of a regional center than it was three years ago,” she said. “We have more amenities now that have anchored Woodland Park and that are drawing people from outlying areas.”

Among those amenities is Wal-Mart, which opened about four years ago and Safeway, which opened in 1999. The town is also home to the Pikes Peak Regional Medical Center, a hospital that opened in late 2007.

“That’s a huge draw,” Kosely said.

It’s also a big employer for the area. The health care facility directly employs 166 people, Kosely said.

“That’s a lot of jobs for a town our size,” she said.

The town’s population is 7,200, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

Education and average income levels have been on their way up in recent census records as well, Kosley said. All of that along with seemingly increased tourism traffic, especially in the summer, has made room for big economic growth in Woodland Park.

Brenda Redding said she’s noticed a lot of tourist traffic at her boutique and consignment shop.

“I can always tell they’re tourists because they come in couples,” she said. “I knew we had a lot of tourists here in the summer, but I’ve been surprised by how many there are.”

Redding opened her shop in July and has done a swift business ever since. She retired from a corporate sales and marketing position about 10 years ago when she moved to Woodland Park and had never owned a business or worked in retail before.

“This was just something I always sort of wanted to do,” she said. “It was just the right thing at the right time.”

There wasn’t a lot of clothing shopping in town and people would have to go down the mountain, she said.

Redding has sold her clothes and bought new clothes at consignment shops all of her adult life. She knew it would go over well in Woodland Park and there wasn’t anything like it.

There was also nothing like BierWerks, said owner Arden Weatherford.

“There was, I guess you could call it pent-up demand for a different type of place to hang out in Woodland Park,” Weatherford said. “Woodland Park has been a great place to live and a crummy place to hang out.”

Weatherford has helped with efforts to redevelop the downtown core. When he met some brewers from Trinidad who were looking to move into a market where they were more likely to succeed, he knew Woodland Park would be a good fit.

He bought the building formerly occupied by Big O Tires, which outgrew its space and had to move, and set the brewers up. Since it opened last August, BierWerks sales per square foot have surpassed both Chili’s and Red Robin.

Setting up a new business in Woodland Park was easy, Weatherford said.

“The brewers had the impression that the red carpet was rolled out for them here,” he said. “They were wanted here.”

He said the town has done a good job of encouraging new business and making entrepreneurs feel welcome and invited.

The only problem was with the building permitting process, Weatherford said.

Teller County manages the town’s building regulations.

Mayor Randolph said he’s heard a lot of complaints, especially from some of the new business owners, about the difficult process.

He said the town has streamlined a lot of its processes in an effort to make it easy for businesses to get started and now has a task force dedicated to finding other ways to make it more efficient, including partnering with the county building authority.

The town is deeply committed to growing its business community, he said.

“I don’t know that we’re interested in growing population-wise,” he said. “But we are interested in having a thriving economy. That’s what we’re after — a healthy and sustainable local economy.”

One Response to Woodland Park businesses thriving in down economy

  1. I live and work in Woodland Park, and I’m really very pleased that the town is finally becoming resident-friendly. I think we’ve always been a nice place for tourists to visit, but for years I’d have to drive to Colorado Springs to buy something as simple as a pair of socks. Now, I save a lot of time and gasoline by shopping for just about anything I need here in Woodland Park. The city and the Downtown Development people have done a marvelous job of making us much more than just a tourist town/bedroom community – and that is deeply appreciated.

    Ellen
    September 7, 2011 at 8:25 am